Bosses, Medics & Comedy: The CBS Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

Heading into the New Year, the essential motion of what has happened in terms of business over the past couple months reflects within television as a whole highlighting the keys in all. CBS continues as one of the more stable permutations on the network landscape.

Executive Session – Nina Tassler With the angle in the last couple days ensconced in the talk of Jay Leno possibly moving back to 11:30pm pushing Conan later, CBS, as evidenced by Craig Ferguson’s confident belying of the situation, seems stable on all fronts. Tassler says that the entire progression of the Leno debacle has proved that “10 o’clock is a great business for us” and that “we have a stable strategy” adding that “our business is thriving” and that “Leno was an experiment that did not work”. Another big entrance within the structure was Charlie Sheen’s arrest for domestic battery in Aspen over the holidays. Tassler responded in kind saying “we are very sensitive to the fact that this is a personal and private matter” but added that “Two & A Half Men” is “on its regular production schedule” keying in “that we taped a show last night”. “American Idol” despite the departure of Paula Abdul is still considered the “death star” even though they agreed to place “NCIS” up against it. Tassler highlights that, in the fall, they had more content than they had real estate for stating that they still have 18 episodes in the hopper for “Flashpoint” as well as 13 of Canadian series “The Bridge”. Despite CBS’ recent success, Tassler says that they are still “in an experimental phase” but says that “the numbers and reach have certainly put us in a good position”. She went on to admit that “Three Rivers” was officially cancelled saying that “we know enough that when we say ‘haitus’, it is code for something else”. In terms of blossoming daytime shows, she announces that “Let’s Make A Deal” with Wayne Brady is doing well, and comparatively better, she admits, than “Guiding Light”. It is making them look at daytime again as a whole different thing since “The Price Is Right” is getting all times highs with Drew Carey at the helm. When asked about the longevity of “CSI” since Laurence Fishburne came onboard, she only offers that he “is a powerful actor and a force to be reckoned with” and “as he is more comfortable with the team as his character, the more they are comfortable with him”. On another logical front, she stated that “Numbers” is still being considered for next year but that they had to make room for “Miami Medical”.

Comedy Showrunners Bidding reverence to the team which re-energized the three-camera studio sitcom in the form of “Two & A Half Men” and the breakout hit “The Big Bang Theory”, Chuck Lorre and his co-exec producer Bill Prady seems to get the way it works but even admit that everything is not always at effortless as it seems. In reference to “The Big Bang Theory”, Lorre says that the science has to be almost irrelevant but the key is trying to make the material work without completely understanding its basis of a technical level. He says the most fun is when they sit in the writers’ room and talk about physics because they fail on a regular basis. He says they might write about scientists but they are not scientific. It is purely a self-defense mechanism. He admits that everyone got choked up during the Penny/Sheldon Christmas scenes. Sheldon, as a character, is so alienated but once in a while something happens with him. In Lorre’s mind, Sheldon and Penny have become “so natural” on the show. For him, this translates into growing the characters without making them redundant. One of the ways, he says, they do that is by showing where Leonard and Sheldon come from in meeting their mothers. “What happened to us when we were put at 9:30pm was very interesting”, he says. He was first able to learn on the job when he did “Roseanne” and has been able to stick around for long enough to put it to good use. Returning to character, Lorre says that the fact that the other characters stay around Sheldon indicate that they love what he does. One of the things with Sheldon is that he decided not to play the sexual game. He is only interested in science and what George Lucas does. The reality is that you can’t run awry on a show where the ensemble is so strong. Sheldon, for example, as a character knows what is going on around him but chooses not to partake yet he is so passionate about what he does do.

Bill Prady follows up Chuck’s comments saying that one of the things with “Big Bang” from the beginning that they wanted to do was when the characters talked about their work, they wanted to keep it real. They do try to stay current with some stuff but the nerd references are all done in the writers’ room themselves. The questions abound. Where is Sheldon in the family of man? Would Sheldon take a person to the hospital? Absolutely! He would engage the Hero Paradigm (because he saw it in video games). For Prady, from a writing point of view, the story of Sheldon is very cool and fun to write to but so is the idea of Wallowitz having his first girlfriend. He says, in general, they have heard alot of thoughts from a whole spectrum of people in regards to the show. All of the characters, he thinks, have connected because they are on the outside looking in. He likens it to being on the other train in “Stardust Memories” in the analogy that “we are over here writing code but people over there are drinking great things”.

Undercover Boss This new reality show, premiering after the Super Bowl, has the heads of companies coming in and getting their hands dirty. In all actuality, it comes off more as a publicity stunt than a real “in-your-face” show. Exec Producer Stephan Lambert says that the reason that they pursued this idea is that there are so many shows set in the workplace but not the “real” workplace. He says that anybody who has had a boss in a company will understand the show. “Undercover Boss”, he highlights, is not mean spirited but it does place a person like a CEO in a situation that he can’t see back at headquarters. The challenge is coming up with compelling ways to show it. The CEO they used with Waste Management: Larry O’Donnell was going out on work routes before they even started the show. The question for him was how do you streamline the corporation and face reality.Every employee wants to show up and do a good job but they also want to have a voice. Some of their other upcoming bosses that they are featuring on the front lines include 7-11, Hooters and White Castle. Presenting a boss who doesn’t know what it is like on the front lines is a good principle. He says that they are particularly keen on focusing on front facing companies. The reason they started with Waste Management was that it was specifically residential.

O’Donnell, for his part as one of the CEOs being shown, says that one of the main reasons he did the show was to find out what some of the issues were out on the field. He found there was a time clock issue at one of the facilities which is one of the policies he had put in place which had caused problems. He says that for years he was trying to figure out how to improve their safety carriers and to be more positive. The reality he says us that the boss in this scenario has to be willing to show the faults of the company.

Miami Medical This new outlay from producer Jerry Bruckheimer takes the field of EMT medicine and places it in a tropical setting. Jeffrey Leiber, one of the exec producers, says that one of the show’s key themes is “it can happen to you”. Even though the show is set in Miami, a majority is show in shot in LA yet the cornerstone is based around Ryer Medical in South Florida. This center is one of only 3 trauma centers of its kind. Bruckheimer, when asked about his effect on television in terms of his ability to create a genre unto himself, said that it is hard to give an answer on the brand. He says their perception has never really changed. It is about the writing and finding the right actors to play these three-dimensional characters. He sees this series as another way of looking at a medical show by using a standard more of gallow humor.

Jeremy Northam, who plays the lead Dr. Matthew Proctor , says that the niceties between different kinds of network shows is sometimes lost on him because he likes to come “as present and loose as possible” though he does admit there is alot of “proppage and gurneys” in this particular show Steve Maeda, another one of the execs on the program, sums up this specific trauma unit which deals with only the first 60 minutes of a problem by saying it allows for both pacing acceleration but also a sense of foreboding.

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Rivers & Spanish Fly: CBS Studio Day Set Visits: Three Rivers & NCIS: Los Angeles – TCA Summer Press Tour 09 – Feature

The allure of the Paramount Lot has taken on the guise of the CBS lexicon. For the CBS Set Visit Studio Day of the TCA Summer 09 Press Tour, the possibilities were in force with two distinctly different new series in different stages of extension. One uses the power of CSI and brings it into the medical profession. The other takes a tried and true franchise and seemingly gives a heap more coolness, fun and sex appeal.

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Three Rivers Entering into the red and orange slick set of this new medical drama, the aspect is of realism. But upon hearing from show runner Carol Barbee, the essence comes from the paradox of true life. The design mirrors in many ways the layout of the Cleveland Clinic which Robin Williams only mentioned yesterday in terms of where he had his heart surgery. This new drama is set in Pittsburgh as the center of transplants central. Nowadays the medical technology can do a lot more than since the time of “St. Elsewhere” which cast member Alfre Woodard was on with Denzel Washington. The first thing that expands when lookng at the set is the amount of plasmas permeating throughout that have a little bit of the CSI tinge to it. Turns out all the monitors are being controlled from a secret compartment between the sets run by 3D Mike. 3D, who was given his name by director Steven Soderbergh on “Oceans 11” is responsible for all the killer graphics. This all comes under the auspice of Rob Bailey, one of the key minds currently behind CSI: NY who the CBS Brass brought over to work on the show. Carol works the character and story but Bailey seems to be the one to work the style.  The shooting on the series post pilot had only started a couple days ago. They were reworking it since the first one was shot in Pittsburgh itself in a shut down hospital. New characters were added specifically Alfre’s character who hired everyone at the hospital. The lead is Alex O’Loughlin who killed last year in the underrated cult CBS  series “Moonlight” (originally known as “Twilight”) which 3D worked on.

O’Loughlin said during the press conference that he got really into the science of it. He was able to witness a couple surgeries and was proud of himself that he didn’t pass out. The key of the show is that Three Rivers is the hub of the action but it also the juncture metaphorically for what happens. The story on some given episodes runs from the victim to the recipient to the doctor. The key of course for a series like this is the balance to keep it from becoming too downtrodden.

Listening to the perspective of someone who had seen the performances in the form of Mike 3D, there seems to be a nice balance between Alex and the two girls in Justina [Machado] & Kate [Moennig], not unlike, in a certain way, the relationship between him and two other girls in a certain “Moonlight” series worked. Kathryn is the dark, serious girl who shows her vulnerabilty and strength that is undeniably alluring but also a little less attainable. Justina by comparison always tries to get Alex’s character to go out and enjoy a real life. You balance this with high octane scenes and there is possibilty. My question was how to make it cinematic without getting too gruesome.

The key was found in earnest and seems to be a Rob Bailey induced element that if done right could be great. It involves when the patient has that moment of either rejection or acceptance, you see their entire life flash behind them. This would be done with a green screen behind the operating table. The actual operating theater which was shown to me is much different than the rest of the hospital although most of the readouts that Mike 3D helped create look like something cool out of “Star Trek”.

At the moment they are reshooting Episode 1 with Scene 21 being done later that night where a young woman Christy either survives or not. Then it is off to Pittsburgh for some shooting on the street to give that edge. Not everything can be green screen. From what is seen here, there is a lot of versatile hand held motion of camera with some dolly iterations. That said, in order for “Three Rivers” to succeed. it will have to find its middle ground.

[Three Rivers premieres Sunday, October 4th at 9pm]

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NCIS: Los Angeles After trekking across the Paramount Lot to Stage 9, the inside doors opens into a beautiful Spanish design house which is the team headquarters for this new gestation. Unlike the previous series, the simple basis of this iteration seems sleek, young and cool if the tone is set just right.

Walking in the upstairs glides around you like a combination of Marin County home and New Orleans chill. The study off to the right has the right degree of Indiana Jones antique cool. The Google Earth playing on the Monitor goes from space down into the Paramount Lot and then a wireframe of the set.

Linda Hunt plays the Matriarch of the House who delegates its doings. She says that the space reflects her a great deal in that it is eclectic. It reflects her business and art but her little study (the Indy spot) looks like a museum. Her  curiousity is a reflection of her but she is on her 7th life, as she puts it, with only two to go.

LL Cool J sees his character Sam as the backbone of the team. He is a former Navy Seal that speaks a couple different languages. His boy Callum, played by Chris O’Donnell (who is his partner in this operation), has a troubled past. Callum, as O’Donnell sees him, is purely a loner, LL’s Sam tries to help him with that but he is still rebuilding himself, as LL puts it, as a human being at the same time. Wrapping up the curve is Daniella Ruah who plays Detective Kinsi working with a bit of  international flavor. Ruah actually quickly started to speak in Portuguese. Even far away her itonation had infinite possibility.

As the panel discussion broke, the wandering to the second floor began. The view from above shows infinite possibilities in terms of shooting. The lighting of the entire downstairs “bullpen” as they call it is built through diffusion to look like skylights and gives a great warmth. The inkling coming around the back crest is the impression of the flamenco scene from “Mission Impossible 2”. This set has a great vibe about it if it is used properly.

Entering into the “war room” which it looks like command central, the high tech comes into pay but there is something inherently boy-like and fun. Think “True Lies”. Again that is the impression with the cool lighting but it depends how it is played. Sitting at one of two consoles with major information firepower at your fingertips, the actual working videophones are integrated across the room. On the wall, a touch activated wall-like screen shows that everything here is real world practical. The set has that edge.

As I start to leave the room to head downstairs, Ruah, possibly still in character garb in form fitting jeans and a white T-shirt with silken flowing locks and a casual but killer smile, turns to watch me go. I tell her that she “is going have fun”. She smiles wide and knowing. She looks and acts like a real woman who can kick people’s asses. This might be a good ride.

[NCIS: Los Angeles premieres Tuesday, September 22nd at 9pm]