Film Stars Flocking to TV?

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Declaring that “star power is big,” CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler kicked off the network’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour Saturday by relating an unnamed top theatrical agent’s assertion that his feature film clients “all want to do TV.”

Tassler and Shark star James Woods said the perception of television by film stars, which once shunned the medium until their film careers waned, has changed.

Woods noted during a later panel session for his new 10 p.m. Thursday night drama that TV now offers a bigger diversity of roles for actors than features, which he lamented have become more “provincial” with conglomerates running the studios.

In her remarks, Tassler also cited a shift in actors’ attitudes about having their work appear on digital platforms, following the first full season in which the networks really gravitated toward new program distribution models such as iPods, cell phones and the Web. “What started as fear has been replaced by enthusiasm and excitement,” she said.

Tassler reiterated the network’s embrace of more year-round development. CBS has been out pitching its development philosophy to major Hollywood talent agencies and is actively at work on a couple projects, including the recently announced Ben Stiller pilot for his actress wife, Christine Taylor. 

Under relentless questioning by critics about whether networks risk alienating audiences by prematurely yanking poorly performing serialized dramas, Tassler acknowledged that there “may be an opportunity to provide resolution” on multiple digital platforms.

Tassler also addressed this fall’s head-to-head match-up between the aging CSI and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy at 9 p.m. Thursdays. Employing the theory, popular with football coaches, of building up your opponent, she surprised some critics by positioning CSI, now the top-rated drama on television, as the “underdog,” saying, “We do expect to get dinged.”

The executive dodged questions about which show would come out on top—saying there is room in the time period for both—but emphasized that CSI plans to be “aggressive” next season with storylines and “creative casting ideas.”

She hinted CBS may launch a second comedy night outside of Monday midseason with the debuts of King of Queens, Rules of Engagement and the animated Creature Comforts.

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