CBS Orders Two More ‘Survivor’ Challenges
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – CBS has given the go-ahead to at least two more editions of “Survivor,” and has ordered full seasons of four of its six new fall shows, including “Cold Case” and “Joan of Arcadia,” the network said Saturday.
Network honchos sang the praises of what has been a very strong season so far during its portion of the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Hollywood. But CBS’ successes were overshadowed by some tougher-than-usual questions for CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves about the network’s dealings with embattled pop star Michael Jackson, its handling of the controversial “Reagans” biopic miniseries and a pointed question regarding Moonves’ personal life.
The “Survivor” renewal — clinched by Moonves and executive producer Mark Burnett on Saturday morning as they shared an escalator ride at the Renaissance Hotel where the press tour has unfolded during the past two weeks — covers the ninth and 10th editions of the series. The pickup means that “Survivor” will stay on CBS through at least May 2005.
Given its strong ratings, “Survivor” was expected to remain a fixture on CBS, though the timing was something of a surprise, as the two sides have apparently hammered out few details, including the locales for Nos. 9 and 10. Indeed, CBS is busy preparing for the eighth edition of “Survivor,” an “all-star” cycle featuring past winners and favorite contestants, which premieres Feb. 1, right after CBS’ telecast of Super Bowl XXXVIII.
CBS also officially announced “CSI: New York,” the second spinoff from the forensics drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and gave full-season pickups to the drama “Navy NCIS” and the comedy “Two and a Half Men” (another drama, “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.,” was pulled from the schedule earlier in the season). That leaves the low-rated freshman crime drama “The Handler” as CBS’ only fall freshman that has not yet been renewed.
“It’s not officially dead, but it’s not looking good, let’s put it that way,” Moonves told reporters about “The Handler.”
Meanwhile, on the daytime side, Bob Barker will return for his 33rd season as host of the game show “The Price Is Right.”
CBS is having a strong year in the ratings, ranking No. 1 season-to-date not just in total viewers but also in its target adults 25-54 demographic and placing second behind NBC among the more coveted adults 18-49 demographic, points that Moonves repeatedly made to the TV critics Saturday.
But the programing news and ratings boasts were somewhat clouded by the recent national headlines Moonves and CBS have made. The network chief came prepared for queries on his handling of the made-for-TV movie “The Reagans” and a “60 Minutes” interview with Jackson as well as his feud with Donald Trump, star of NBC’s new reality hit “The Apprentice,” which Burnett also executive produces.
Moonves joked to reporters that the job of the network’s media relations executives “used to be to get my name in the newspaper. Now it’s their job to keep my name out of the newspaper, and frankly, they haven’t done a very good job in the last few months,” he said.
Moonves reiterated earlier statements that, despite published reports, the network did not pay Jackson $1 million to be interviewed by Ed Bradley on “60 Minutes.” But he conceded that the network backed off its initial insistence that Jackson’s arrest on child molestation charges be addressed in court before a tribute special featuring the singer could be aired.
Instead, Moonves decided that the Bradley sit-down was sufficient to pave the way for the airing earlier this month of the “Michael Jackson Number Ones” special, which was hastily yanked from CBS’ schedule in November following Jackson’s arrest.
“I did change on that,” Moonves said.
As for “The Reagans,” Moonves said he realized his decision not to air the TV movie about the former first family (which wound up running on CBS’ pay-cable sibling Showtime) was unpopular in some quarters, but he still stands by the move.
In a lighthearted vein, he attributed Trump’s personal attacks to “a very bad hair day” for the real estate baron. Last week, Trump called Moonves “the most highly overrated person in television” and criticized him for failing to renew the network’s deal to telecast the Miss Universe pageant and other events controlled by Trump.
But Moonves was caught off guard when a reporter asked whether he would “recuse” himself from decision-making on “The Early Show,” where his girlfriend Julie Chen is co-host. Moonves, who is in the midst of a divorce, has kept his relationship with Chen largely private.
“What do you mean?” a clearly surprised Moonves asked the reporter. “Are you writing for (the New York Post’s) Page Six now?”
He added that he and CBS News president Andrew Heyward had worked out an “Early Show” arrangement that works “fine,” but he declined to elaborate.
Moonves offered no new details on the status of the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” whose current deal with CBS expires in May. He said he’s trying to persuade star Ray Romano that a “Raymond” series finale this May would “get lost in the shuffle” because NBC’s “Friends” and “Frasier” will end their runs with a hail of publicity at that time.
“We obviously hope it comes back,” Moonves said of “Raymond,” adding that he has told the creators, “We’ll give you awards, we’ll give you dinners … we’ll supersize you. We’ll do whatever you want to come back for an extra year.”
CBS Orders Two More ‘Survivor’ Challenges