CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler did a verbal tapdance for the nation's TV critics Wednesday, refusing to recap the network's machinations dealing with the meltdown of Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen, and praising his replacement, Ashton Kutcher, to the skies.
"Our focus is moving forward," she said, with "an extraordinary actor committed to doing his job ... an incredible professional."
Tassler said Kutcher would play an Internet billionaire with a broken heart named Walden Schmidt, who will be introduced to viewers in a two-part story over two weeks beginning Sept. 19. Tassler refused to confirm or deny that Sheen's character will be buried as part of the show's season nine opening. "Mystery is a part of the marketing," she said.
Production began Monday. "When everybody walked on set," Tassler said, "you could cut the air with the knife."
Tassler said the network was confident replacing Sheen with Kutcher and CSI's Laurence Fishburne with Ted Danson. "Both actors have huge fan bases [and] bring tremendous amounts of goodwill. It's a wonderful opportunity to reveal those shows to a whole a new audience." She would make no ratings predictions, but said both shows should "do very well."
CBS is the only network without an entertainment competition show, the genre that has become the most popular on television. Tassler said it was "still actively looking" for one that's a little different from the others, but she would not say if she thought scripted shows would ever regain their formerly dominant ratings position.
In light of the Sheen debacle, one critic asked if CBS had changed its policies in casting actors who might be susceptible to erratic behavior. "That would probably be every actor in Hollywood," she said.