The Executive Dance

When the TV Critics press tour schedule came out without an executive session from CBS, some reporters howled. How could a major network diss them by refusing to face them?

“You spoke, we listened,” Nina Tassler said in her session, hastily scheduled for early Wednesday that began, “Good morning, everybody! I’m here!”

Never mind that Tassler, who claimed such inquiry “makes me a nervous wreck,” is so smooth in such a forum she seldom delivers much news or usable quotes. Or that she replaced a fixture of tour who was a master of throwing out news or juicy quotes, Les Moonves, who as top boss stopped doing them a few years back.

But she tried to make clear that the day’s sessions – largely built around panels for comedies that are already hits – wasn’t meant as a big insult to critics.

“I swear to you and those of you who know me, I’m the most respectful person in the world,” she said. “People step on my feet, and I say I’m sorry. So it really wasn’t a sign of disrespect. I have tremendous respect for everybody and the job that they do.”

There was, indeed little news in the session, from a hint about upcoming reality shows – “We have a very, very heavy development slate this year in alternative, not only for summer, but next year as well,” Tassler say—to saying it may take a while to find a show to pair with its hit “Big Bang Theory.”

And her comment that the show “2 Broke Girls” is “an equal opportunity offender” that she has spoken with creator Michael Patrick King to go beyond stereotypical characters, or, in her words, “continue to dimensionalize, continue to get more specific, continue to build them out” – a phrase that would come to haunt her in a contentious “2 Broke Girls” session later.

But her most salient quote, responding to the increasingly use of body parts for punchlines in CBS comedies, told a reporter in a post-conference scrum, “Vagina is not indecent.”

The way reporters rushed to report that comment, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it trend on twitter.

Part of the job of network executives at such event is to kind of jab at the critics.

To start his executive session, ABC network entertainment president Paul Lee quipped, “So, what do you think of ‘Work It?’ referring to the much-reviled new sitcom.

His session had a similar theme of reacting to the coarsening of language of primetime as two of the new shows on ABC midseason refer to Bitch in the title, “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23” and “GCB,” which stands for Good Christian Bitches.”

“It turns out it’s not a word that you want to use in the title,” Lee said. And the B in the other title officially stands for “Belles.” Though everybody will assume it’s “Bitches.”

The executive session is a good place to get the status report on shows whose futures may not be known. There were few definitive announcements at TCA, with Fox’s relaxed Kevin Reilly saying they’ll have to look at “Terra Nova,” and “Fringe,” that there’s no sure new season for “House.” There was one definitive cancellation there, though: the animated “Allen Gregory.”

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