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CBS Entertainment President NIna Tassler defends Pilot Season and Limited Series at TCA Press Tour

CBS is the network that probably closest adhere to tradition, both in the development process and scheduling, rolling virtually its entire fall lineup during premiere week.So it is not surprising that CBS is not running to jump in with Fox in discarding pilot season. “Pilot season isn’t perfect; it certainly is a very difficult time, frustrating but it is also exciting,” she said in response to Fox chairman Kevin Reilly’s announcement on Monday that the network will be bypassing pilot season going forward. Tassler quoted a study about how working under pressure in great time constraints with a sense of urgency creates a creative adrenaline that is very productive. She also brought up success pilot stories like The Big Bang Theory and CSI though she talked about the benefits of doing a pilot, like was the case with Big Bang, reworked and recast after the pilot came in a little rough. That is actually an argument Reilly used in his pitch for dumping the pressure-cooker pilot season for a model where promising but imperfect pilots and new series are given more time for course-correction through tweaking and recasting. “Pilot season does work for us, it’s not perfect,” Tassler said. “You cannot make those broad generalizations (about abandoning pilot season). Maybe for them (Fox) it is challenging, but for us it is part of the process that works.” Like Fox, CBS has been mixing things up with direct-to-series orders, like last summer’s breakout Under The Dome, which was ordered off scripts and a bible, and the upcoming Extant and Battle Creek.

Tassler also defended the serialized, limited-run style dramas despite complaints about Under The Dome’s creative direction and the soft ratings performance of Hostages. “When a show does not for whatever reason take off, you cant (blame it on the form),” Tassler said. “We felt there were a lot of great elements to (Hostages), I think we had a terrific cast, all really well done… Monday night is a tough night all around, it’s difficult to give an absolute answer.”

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