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TCA Press Tour: CBS chief says Jay Leno mess has 'bruised' TV industry

January 9, 2010 |  2:40 pm


With the entertainment industry transfixed by the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien mess, CBS' programming chief said NBC's handling of its talk show hosts has hurt the TV industry.

"A lot of people really saw this as having a pretty negative impact on our business," CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said this morning at the opening session of the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

She was referring to NBC's move last year that switched Leno from late night to a 10 p.m. weeknight slot, replacing NBC's traditional dramas; O'Brien took Leno's place as "Tonight Show" host. Bowing to pressure from local stations worried about low ratings for "The Jay Leno Show," fourth-ranked NBC now appears to be backpedaling on its decision, although it has yet to announce any schedule changes.

But Tassler sees damage already done, because backing off big-budget dramas has meant many Hollywood professionals lost jobs.

"The unfortunate thing is that our creative community was to some degree somewhat bruised by this," Tassler told reporters. "A lot of people were put out of work." An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Tassler quickly added, however, that her own network has only reaped benefits from the Leno affair, pointing to "better than OK" numbers for two dramas that were new to the 10 p.m. time slot: "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist."

"Ten o'clock is a great business for us," she said.

So far this season, CBS has remained the most-watched network. But it has had its share of bad news: Tassler confirmed for the first time that the network had canceled "Three Rivers," a medical drama that aired at 9 p.m. Sundays but never quite overcame vexing creative problems.

Meanwhile, Tassler sidestepped a question about "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen, who was recently arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.

"We're being very sensitive to the fact that this is a very personal and very private matter for Charlie," she said. "There's been no impact on the show right now."

At a later panel, "Two and a Half Men" executive producer Chuck Lorre likewise tread carefully around the subject of Sheen's arrest.

"We put on a show last night, and it went extremely well," he said. "Charlie is a consummate pro."

-- Scott Collins

Photo: Nina Tassler. Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS