“Oh, where do I begin?”
That was Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, on Wednesday during her meeting with TV reporters when the two words she dreaded hearing came up: Charlie Sheen.
The CBS exec was on stage in Los Angeles to discuss the state of the network and highlights of the upcoming fall TV season with the press, but the subject of the very public meltdown and demise of her former “Two and a Half Men” star was inevitable.
Tassler clearly wanted to avoid the subject – avoiding even saying Sheen’s name at all – instead talking up her “excitement” about the new “Man” in the middle of the “extraordinary” sitcom drama, Ashton Kutcher.
Basically, they’re over it.
“We look at where we are today and our whole focus is on moving forward,” Tassler said. “You have an extraordinary actor in Ashton Kutcher, he’s an incredible professional. We’re worlds apart today from where we were. We’re just happy to be where we are today.”
The tap dancing continued.
“Who could have predicted we would be here six months ago, but the great news is the show will be as irreverent as it’s ever been. So that’s some of the good news coming out of this.”
She also refused to comment directly on if the network has learned any lessons from how it handled “the Sheen situation”:
“What we learned is that we have an extraordinary cast, we have extraordinary writers and actors, and that there is great value in hiring an actor like Ashton Kutcher, who has been completely embraced by the cast.”
Any consideration to making a new rule at the network regarding “erratic actors”?
“That would probably be every actor in the business,” Tassler joked, so, no, they won’t be changing any procedures or inhibiting the creative process in that way.
She did reveal new details about Kutcher’s character on “Two and a Half Men”:
“His character’s name is Walden Schmidt and he’s an internet billionaire with a broken heart and it will be a two parter over two weeks. He is not a relative of an existing character, he is a unique character.”
On reports that the “Two Men” season premiere will feature the funeral of Charlie Harper:
“I’m not going to confirm or deny that. As we said in our marketing plan, ‘all will be revealed’ on Sept. 19 [when the show returns]. It’s going to be a big event, and I think that bit of mystery and the discussion of it is part of the fun.”
But Kutcher isn’t the only major casting change coming to a CBS show this fall, and talk soon turned to CBS’ other high-profile actor coming into a long-running show: Ted Danson, who’s the new team leader on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
If you think the “Cheers” vet is a surprising choice to replace the departing Laurence Fishburne (who replaced the departing William Petersen), Tassler says simply, “We went for the best actor.”
“We looked at a number of different choices, we looked at the arc of the season this year, and he seemed like the right choice,” she went on to say. “He’s a huge TV star and has a lot of charisma – when his name came up, we jumped at it. We are thrilled to have him.”
She also revealed that Danson’s character’s name is D.B. Russell and “he has to really reconnect the team and bring them back together.”
She conceded that “CSI” fans didn’t connect with Fishburne’s character, saying, “I feel the character of Langston had very big shoes to fill. The departure of Grissom was so impactful. He came in, sort of churned things up a bit and now Ted Danson will step in and reassert the team.”
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