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<p>CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler</p>
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CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler

Credit: CBS

Press Tour '12 Live-Blog: CBS Executive Session with Nina Tassler

CBS is still on top. Are there any questions to be asked?

PASADENA - Welcome, friends, to the executive session that was never supposed to take place.

CBS originally scheduled its winter Television Critics Association press tour day without an executive session with Entertainment President Nina Tassler, breaking with TCA tradition and protocol.

TCA members were unhappy.

CBS decided to schedule a brief and last-second executive session with Tassler.

I don't mean to suggest causality between those last two sentences. I'm sure it's totally coincidental.

It is true, though, that CBS has been TV's most-watched network for almost the entire duration for my time on this job, which means that the network doesn't have the same number of failures or big gambles as the other networks and that can mean controversy-free executive sessions, which aren't necessarily high in drama

But perhaps this morning will be different. Click through....

8:29 a.m. We almost didn't get this panel, but instead it's been scheduled for a very early-morning slot and it promises to only be a truncated 20 minutes. 

8:32 a.m. "You spoke, we listened," Tassler says, regarding the previous absence of executive session. She explains that this is a forum that makes her nervous. It's unclear what to make of that, since she's been doing this with us for years. She begins by trumpeting the success that CBS has had this past year and whatnot. "It really wasn't a sign of disrespect," she swears.

8:34 a.m. CBS has no announcements at all this morning. "We are very proud of the success this year," Tassler says, before praising the "Two and a Half Men" rebooting, plus the addition of Elisabeth Shue to "CSI." She keeps calling Shue "Lisa," which I guess is how she's known to friends. 

8:35 a.m. Tassler knows her SEO keywords and she makes sure to thank Tim Tebow, who gave CBS a huge ratings bump this past weekend. Anyway, though, CBS is up year-to-year and CBS is No.1 in everything that matters to CBS. So there you go!

8:37 a.m. Tassler is still giving her opening statement, meaning that we're going to have only 13 minutes of questions for her.

8:37 a.m. "We do hear from a lot of viewers about the overruns, but that means we have a very passionate and engaged audience," Tassler says of the fall NFL impact on "The Good Wife." She still feels that the shift to Sunday was a very good move and that the audience is upscale and engaged and that "Good Wife" fits well on Sunday.

8:39 a.m. Tassler praises that writers and cast of "NCIS" for showing continued growth after all of these years, praising "the balance in tone, style." She says the show is in its "later years," but I think she just means "later" rather than "earlier." 

8:40 a.m. What's up with "The 22"? "Everything is fine and it's probably going to have a later spring launch," she says, noting that the police drama was pushed to later in spring because of the strength of the fall. Yes. Just like "Miami Medical" and "Chaos."

8:40 a.m. Is the network taking a hands-off approach to "2 Broke Girls," since it's a hit? "We have a really great working relationship with Michael [Patrick King]," Tassler says, adding that it's the network's policy to try to give showrunners the chance to find their shows. She uses "Big Bang Theory" as her example of a show that dimensionalized characters gradually. Asked for her opinion on the diner scenes, Nina says "They're equal opportunity offenders," but again mentions dimensionalizing characters.

8:43 a.m. Is CBS looking for more competition reality? With "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," CBS is in good shape, but the network has a heavy development slate. The network doesn't want to follow the same path the other networks are following, emphasizing shows with a greater "narrative drive."

8:44 a.m. Does Tassler think NBC is making a mistake by scheduling "The Voice" against CBS' comedies? "I don't know what that matchup is going to do," Tassler says, but she notes that a lot of people are watching TV, so everybody should still be able to get maximum exposure.

8:45 a.m. Regarding development, Tassler says that "relevance" is a major goal, trying to find characters who are relatable to audiences. The key, naturally, is "strong storytelling." She says, "Audiences need to engage with characters," calling TV "an intimate medium." She says that the network tries to present flawed characters who are on their own personal journeys, but also have a core morality. The goal is to produce shows that aren't there just for a good pilot, but for the 100th or 200th episodes. She wants showrunners who feel their shows personally. She references Jonah Nolan ("Person of Interest") as a showrunner who felt his show deeply.

8:48 a.m. Social media is important to CBS.

8:48 a.m. What challenges is CBS having programming 8:30 on Thursday? "Looking for a show that is a companion isn't limited to just another multi-camera show. It could be a single-camera show," Tassler says. But "The Big Bang Theory" is a big hit and they're dedicated to finding a companion for it. Poor "Rules of Engagement."

8:49 a.m. What happened with "The Talk"? Shows in their first season go through changes and Tassler compares those changes to changes on a sitcom or drama. "We saw an opportunity moving forward into the next season and we took advantage of it," Tassler says, though she adds that unlike on a scripted show, you don't need to give explanation for those changes. She says that there may be continued evolution over time. "It's sorta par for the course," Tassler adds, praising the content and the "spirited" discussion.

8:52 a.m. What is CBS' summer ideology? "We're being very aggressive. We have a number of shows in development in the unscripted space that we have early triggers on," Tassler promises, though she also says that CBS' hit shows will repeat all summer, because that's what CBS does. The network's summer strategy is keeping the audience engaged and happy. 

8:54 a.m. Is "Person of Interest" doing well? Tassler says it's performing "very well" and the network is "extremely pleased" with the show, but nobody's making any decisions about anything so far. "There's a lot of talk about 'Person of Interest,'" Tassler says. She says, not surprisingly, that everybody has realized that the Taraji P. Henson character has been "too peripheral." Geez. Why did that take so long to figure out? They're planning on bringing the Carter character into "the superhero cave" a bit earlier than originally planned. "We feel that that was a key ingredient to really letting the show build and expand," Tassler says.

8:57 a.m. Could "Smash" lead CBS to get into the musical business? And are there ever nights Tassler feels like the Monday comedies are too lewd, collectively? "We don't bring people in for a mass meeting about that quality of the shows," Tassler says. "They're a little risque, but the characters are... living truthfully within their relative situations," she says. Tassler adds that because there's ratings growth for the shows, they're resonating [and therefore above charges of crudeness?] . Everything that happens on the comedies happens within the bounds of their standards and practices. As for "Smash"? "I'm a big 'Glee' watcher. I hope it does well for them. I think it's important that in all of our respective jobs that we continue to explore," Tassler says. Did the critic forget that "Viva Laughlin" was just a few seasons ago? 

 

That's all, folks...

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"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" DP Hoyte van Hoytema made the cut, furthering its success in craft guild announcements.
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" DP Hoyte van Hoytema made the cut, furthering its success in craft guild announcements.
Credit: Focus Features

'Tinker, Tailor,' 'Dragon Tattoo' among ASC nominees, 'War Horse' snubbed again

Yet another bump in the road for Steven Spielberg's World War I epic

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced nominees for excellence in the field this year, and missing from the nominees was Janusz Kaminski's work on "War Horse," which marks yet another key snub for the film in the precursor season.

I've been critical of the lensing of Steven Spielberg's World War I epic, which was commendable in intent more so than practice and felt a bit uneven throughout. Nevertheless, it's a surprise to see Kaminski miss here, and further indication that the industry has not responded well to the film.

The happy surprise, though not all that surprising still, is Hoyte van Hoytema getting in for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," a moody, atmospheric piece of work with photography as observational and patient as the directorial vision. It's the second guild nod for the film, following an Art Directors Guild citation, showing that the film has support through the craft branches even if it's not registering with groups like the PGA and DGA.

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<p>Eduardo Noriega in &quot;Blackthorn.&quot;</p>

Eduardo Noriega in "Blackthorn."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Round-up: It's your moment to shine, 'Blackthorn'

Also: Defending 'War Horse' and judging 2011's movie posters

Hey, remember "Blackthorn?" It wouldn't surprise me if you don't. Mateo Gil's western, starring Sam Shepard as Butch Cassidy, came and went in the fall with nary a sound, and certainly hasn't been part of any awards conversation. But every dog has its day, and the film just scooped 11 nominations for the Goya Awards, otherwise known as the Spanish Oscars. The film may not seem terribly Spanish to you, but it qualifies thanks to the beauty of international funding -- which is also why that noted Basque auteur Woody Allen nabbed a screenplay nomination (though nothing else) for "Midnight in Madrid Paris." Curiouser and curiouser. More predictably, Pedro Almodóvar's emphatically Spanish "The Skin I Live In" leads the field with 16 nominations. [THR]

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<p>Sarah (Lauren Graham)&nbsp;on &quot;Parenthood.&quot;</p>

Sarah (Lauren Graham) on "Parenthood."

Credit: NBC

'Parenthood' - 'Just Smile': Cover boy

Adam steals Crosby's spotlight, Amber struggles at work and Sarah and Mark have a talk

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I go to Harvard/Harvard...

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<p>Bob Dylan performs at the London Feis Festival in June of last year.</p>

Bob Dylan performs at the London Feis Festival in June of last year.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Bob Dylan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Harrison to participate in Critics' Choice Martin Scorsese tribute

Dylan will perform for the Music+Film Award recipient

Tomorrow's 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards ceremony just went electric.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association has announced that singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Harrison (widow of Beatle George Harrison), will participate in Martin Scorsese's Music+Film Award tribute. DiCaprio and Harrison will present the award, while Dylan (who was featured briefly in Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" in 1978 and in depth in the 2005 documentary "No Direction Home") will toast the director with a performance.

Scorsese was announced in December as the second recipient of the award, which was inaugurated last year when it was presented to filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at the 2011 CCMA ceremony. The award honors "a single filmmaker who has touched audiences through cinematic storytelling and has heightened the impact of films through the brilliant use of source and original music."

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<p>The skyline of Coruscant may look beautiful, but in the proposed series 'Star Wars:&nbsp;Underworld,' we're going to see the seedy underside of this planet-sized city if George Lucas has anything to say about it.</p>

The skyline of Coruscant may look beautiful, but in the proposed series 'Star Wars: Underworld,' we're going to see the seedy underside of this planet-sized city if George Lucas has anything to say about it.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Lucas talks 'Red Tails' trilogy and McCallum drops 'Star Wars: Underworld' title

All sorts of Lucas news breaks straight from the source

Wait, wait, wait… so "Red Tails" is a trilogy?

That's what George Lucas said during a fairly freewheeling interview on "The Daily Show" this week.  He's been making the rounds doing publicity for "Red Tails," which is a surreal thing to say as a longtime Lucas fan.  How many years has he been talking about this story, and how long has he been trying to get it made?  And now, finally, here it is.

Rick McCallum has also been doing interviews to support the film as well, and he dropped an interesting bit of information about the long-rumored live-action "Star Wars" television show… a title.

What's really interesting is how the title plays into what I'd already learned about the show, and every time they say anything official about the show, it sounds like they're making the series that I initially heard described.  And if that's true, it sounds like it could be a really interesting different take on the world of "Star Wars," one that's not like any of the films that have been made so far.

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<p>I just want to know if Natalie Portman's coming back or not, darn it</p>

I just want to know if Natalie Portman's coming back or not, darn it

Credit: Marvel Studios

'Thor 2' hires writer of 'Saving Private Ryan' to prep the film for 2013

What does this mean for the Marvel sequel?

Robert Rodat, eh?

He is, of course, best known for his screenplay for "Saving Private Ryan," which was fairly heavily doctored by several other heavy hitters brought on once Spielberg was officially making the film.  That's the way it works, though.  No matter who did what, if you're the guy with the name on the movie, you're the one who gets the bounce.

The thing is, Rodat's a good writer, and that's true of his other work as well.  I quite like "Tall Tale," a fantasy picture that deals with some of the legendary characters of the American west, and I greatly admire "Fly Away Home," a strong family film starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin.  Rodat's done strong drafts of a number of films over the years, and he's a guy who works very well with directors, especially when they're about to start production on something and the clock is ticking.  That is one of the most important skills in modern screenwriting, and one he's going to put to use if he's going to get them ready for Alan Taylor to start production later this year on the sequel to "Thor."

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<p>William Shimell and Juliette Binoche in &quot;Certified Copy.&quot;</p>

William Shimell and Juliette Binoche in "Certified Copy."

Credit: IFC Films

First-Half FYC: Best Actress and Actor

From Wiig to Wilson, 10 leading turns from early 2011 that deserve a shot

If you've read the first two parts of this column series, you'll know by now what the drill is. Every year, the Oscar race is overwhelmingly tilted in favor of films released later in the year (one need only observe the surprising Guild performance of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" to realize the see the side effects of voters' short memories), as numerous early-year standouts struggle to remain in the conversation. These columns, then, aim to remind you of certain deserving but time-faded contenders from films released from January to June 2011, their buzz largely fading if they ever had it in the first place.

We've already covered the supporting and screenplay races: this week, it's the turn of the leading actors and actresses. Combing through the list of first-half releases, I was pleased to encounter enough worthy names that restricting myself to the traditional five-wide ballot proved rather a challenge: Best Actress, in particular, served up a number of far tastier options than the more recent ones we're currently considering in the Oscar race. I wanted to find room for Catherine Deneuve ("Potiche"), Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna"), Brad Pitt ("The Tree of Life"), Clive Owen ("Trust") and even Johnny Depp ("Rango"); unfortunately (or fortunately, from a film viewer's perspective), I ran out of room.

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<p>Christopher Plummer (left)&nbsp;and Ewan McGregor in &quot;Beginners&quot;</p>

Christopher Plummer (left) and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners"

Credit: Focus Features

'Albert Nobbs,' 'Beginners' and 'Weekend' feature in Gay & Lesbian critics nominations

Pedro Almodóvar's 'The Skin I Live In' gets some love, too

The Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association has announced its list of nominees this year, and out front with two mentions apiece were "Albert Nobbs," "Beginners" and "Weekend."

The film of the year category includes several of the standard precursor favorites: “The Descendents,” “The Artist” and “The Tree of Life” among them. But it also includes a film that I feel as though I have been in an ongoing conversation with since seeing it several weeks ago, a contemporization of the myth of Pygmalion as only Pedro Almodóvar could conceive: “The Skin I Live In.” Andrew Haigh’s indie exploration of gay romance “Weekend” also got a nod.

Christopher Plummer and Janet McTeer both received nominations for Performance of the Year for their work in "Beginners" and" Albert Nobbs" respectively. Plummer is an odds-on favorite for a Best Supporting actor Oscar nomination, while Janet McTeer one-upped her film's co-star, Glenn Close. My dark horse Best Actor favorite Michael Fassbender is also included in the field for his work in “Shame.”

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"Desperate Housewives"

 "Desperate Housewives"

Credit: ABC

Press Tour: 'Desperate Housewives' creator says no to a movie version

Marc Cherry isn't interested in following in 'Sex and the City''s footsteps

It's the final season of "Desperate Housewives," and the ladies (and men) of Wisteria Lane came out for press tour along with creator Marc Cherry and Executive Producer Bob Daily to talk about the show's final days. That didn't mean, however, that Cherry was forthcoming with information (or at least not much information). When asked if original housewife Nicolette Sheridan might return, he made it clear that, despite the reporter's understanding, he'd never implied anyone in particular would be returning to the show. "What I said was that I hoped to do something that paid an homage to characters who came before. I'm so not revealing what the end is going to be. It's very much a surprise and I'm hyper-protective of it. No comment on that."

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<p>Brad Pitt in &quot;The Tree of Life&quot;</p>

Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 bubble contenders to consider for Oscar

Our picks for potential nominees that need that extra shove

Ballots are in hand and the last push to this Friday's poll deadline is tight and spirited. The guilds have done a nice job of shaking things up somewhat, offering some nominees here and there that were a bit unexpected, but they haven't exactly turned the usual order of things on its ear, either.

Nevertheless, now is the time when you cross your fingers for completely left-field picks from the Academy's membership (most of which has likely already turned in its ballot by now), but mainly hope for some bubble contenders that are highly deserving to fall on the right side of the line come Tuesday, January 24.

Enter this installment of the lists, which is an attempt to look at the race somewhat realistically by offering up some bubble-contending suggestions to the few holdouts still staring at blanks on their ballot and hoping for inspiration.

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Interview: Norah Jones talks The Little Willies and her solo next album
Credit: Parlophone

Interview: Norah Jones talks The Little Willies and her solo next album

She and her buddies tackle classic country tunes on 'For The Good Times'

She may be best known for tunes like “Don’t Know Why,” but below that soft, jazzy exterior, Norah Jones is a cowgirl.

Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but the New York-born, Texas-raised Jones grew up listening to country music and it’s the genre she returns to when she needs a little dose of home. 

“It reminds me of my childhood and my grandparents and growing up in Texas and spending Christmases in Oklahoma and listening to Dolly Parton on my grandma’s record player,” Jones says. “It just feels good, I guess.”

Given her love of traditional country, it’s no surprise that Jones reunited with her buddies in The Little Willies for a second serving of country tunes. On “For The Good Times,” out today, The Little Willies twang through such tunes as Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” or “Remember Me,” made famous by Willie Nelson and written by Scott Wiseman.

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