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James Hibberd

Searching for CBS’s Next Reality Touchdown

July 16, 2006 8:44 PM

CBS is focused on finding its next reality hit, the network’s Entertainment President said Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. As some her top executives and on-screen talent sailed footballs into the end zone as part of the network’s TCA stars party, Nina Tassler admitted finding another reality performer is an issue.“It’s hugely important,” she said. “It is a priority for us. Part of it has been when you achieve that level of success, we haven’t had to be as aggressive in trying to find the next big hit. Also, we have a very strong schedule where those reality shows are going to go is certainly a topic of conversation.”Tassler has a point. The network’s two reality veterans “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” are still performers, particularly with young adults. The “Big Brother” summer franchise is currently in its seventh season, while the modest success “Rockstar” is back for a second summer outing.

Still, no matter how successful a network is, it is always looking for more hits, reality or otherwise. In terms of recent momentum, other broadcasters have run with the ball (look, the party was set at the Rose Bowl, so I’m going with every football-related image I can think of). NBC had a surprise hit in December with “Deal or No Deal,” ABC has “Dancing With the Stars” and Fox is enjoying the success of both “Hell’s Kitchen” and “So You Think You Can Dance?” Even The CW will enjoy the still young “Beauty and the Geek” franchise inherited from The WB when the network debuts in the fall. 

Some of CBS’s recent forays into the genre have been lackluster, at best. “Tuesday Night Book Club,” which many critics derided as a ripoff of the cable series “The Real Housewives of Orange County” got yanked from the schedule after a few scant airings.

The biggest step Tassler has taken to remake CBS’s reality playbook (football again!) was to hire Ghen Maynard, who most recently worked at NBC as a senior development executive. Maynard is credited with shepherding “Survivor” through development back when no one knew if competitive reality would work on broadcast TV.  Bringing Maynard back into the fold is a sign how seriously the network is about creating new non-scripted assets.

Maynard is a “huge plus for us, so we’re very excited,” Tassler said.



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