CBS Faces the Press and Punts: No Details on Mandy Patinkin or Mark Harmon, But Lots of Jericho
She's got one hit series where the star blew off the first day of work and then quit, stranding a crew of 200 writers, producers, actors and crew members. She's got another series where the star demanded -- successfully -- that the network get rid of the guy who created the show to keep HIM from walking.
But any TV critics who thought CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler was going to say anything substantive about Mandy Patinkin's puzzling departure from Criminal Minds or Mark Harmon's powerplay to remove producer Don Bellisario from the staff of NCIS, they were sorely disappointed Wednesday.
"I don't want to be a pain, but I really hope Mandy will address this situation in the future," said Tassler, who referred to Patinkin's decision as the result of "personal issues." When a critic pointed out that CBS cited the often-used "creative differences" in its press release Monday, Tassler noted: "Creative differences is a euphemism for personal issues."
All she would say is that Patinkin will appear in the second Criminal Minds episode. Since network officials didn't seem to have any idea he was planning to leave until he failed to show for a read-through of the season's first script, I expect there's a lot of rewriting going on in the halls of the Eye Network.
She also declined to comment on a TMZ.com report that CSI co-star Gary Dourdan attacked a photographer for the celebrity-oriented Web site, chasing him through Hollywood while the injured shooter's cameras captured it all. Of course, it's posted here.
Aside from the diva questions, Tassler didn't have much to reveal. Film director Tony Scott (Top Gun) will direct the first new episodes of Numb3rs; the net's new series mostly debut the week of Sept. 23.
Noting that fans of revived post-apocalyptic drama Jericho sent thousands of pounds of nuts to CBS to rescue the series -- sparking 50,000 emails to the network, including about 7,000 to her alone -- Tassler joked in an exasperated tone about the salesman in a camera shop and her own doctor sending emails and handing her bags of nuts.
"We've said to the fans, you've got to be our Jericho Rangers -- you've got to get more people to watch the show," said Tassler, noting that Jericho star Skeet Ulrich personally called all the show's cast members when CBS reversed its decision to cancel the show, allowing the network to pull the production crew back together in 48 hours. "(In the protest) you saw a huge segment of the population who felt they weren't being counted."
Indeed, the Jericho response has been massive; ads in industry trade papers, emails, bags of nuts and even a deluge of emails sent to critics at TCA, urging them to cover the show (more on that tomorrow). Tassler was surprised at the detailed fan conversations on the Internet about the show, and commercial ratings figures from Nielsen Media Research revealed Jericho was the show with the highest viewership of ads.
Which left me wondering: How did CBS miss all these signs to cancel the show in the first place? And instead of acting irritated with the fan response, shouldn't they be thanking the audience for saving them from their own mistaken decision?
"If people are engaged and they're upset about something and they're motivated, I think we're doing our jobs," said Tassler, who hasn't yet picked a date for the return of Jericho's seven new episodes. "You want an audience to care as much as these people care."
Guess they haven't gotten the message yet.