CBS at TCA: Lackluster fall entries at a lackluster presentation

It was The Church Of Tisch’s turn at the Death March With Cocktails (translation: CBS’ day at the Television Critics Association Press Tour) on Sunday, introducing five new shows – and most of them were unimpressive. Here’s what went down:

– CBS exec session: CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler began the session walking out with a stuffed monkey, obviously mocking NBC’s new star Crystal the Monkey from Animal Practice (of course, she must’ve forgotten CBS was home to Me And The Chimp 40 years ago…)

Once again, Ms. Tassler touted the network’s strength, stating CBS is the one to beat in the 18-49 demo this upcoming season, thanks to a strong primetime lineup and the Super Bowl. As for the lawsuit CBS has against ABC for ripping off Big Brother with ultra-bomb Glass House, Tassler said its still in litigation, despite what ABC chief Paul Lee said, declaring the lawsuit “over”. Tassler pointed out CBS is very protective of their brands.

Tassler pointed out 80 percent of CBS’ fare is either currently being sold or is in syndication, and the decision to backtrack and uncancel Unforgettable was based on strong research and reluctance to let the series go. She said How I Met Your Mother’s contract negotiations for a ninth season are “ongoing”, and as for former network star Charlie Sheen’s new Anger Management comedy, just five words: “Not my cup of tea”.

CBS held panels for four of its new primetime shows and it went as follows:

– The duo behind groundbreaking comedy Will & Grace (Max Mutchnick and David Kohan) are back with Partners, a new sitcom featuring two lifelong friends – one straight (David Krumholtz) and one gay (Michael Urie) and the issues their friendship creates for their respective love interests. Many critics compared the series to the short-lived 1995 Fox sitcom of the same name. Kohan said the creation of the show was just a coincidence (yeah, right. And if that’s true, Cook County is free of corruption.)

Partners is scheduled on a night where critics don’t exactly care for CBS’ Monday night comedies these days – remember, this is a group who still thinks of Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, James Arness, Murphy Brown, Raymond, and the “Tiffany Network” image when it comes to CBS Monday programming. It’s 2012, and none of those stars are walking through that door anytime soon. Get used to it.

– Dennis Quaid returns to television for the first time in ages in Vegas, the crime drama/western set in 1960’s Las Vegas, with Quaid playing a Clark County Sheriff who gives a Chicago mobster (played by Michael Chilkis) a hard time. The series is set in an era where Las Vegas was still transitioning from a sleepy ranching town to a major tourist attraction. While the series has the “crime of the week” format much like any other procedural, the stories “will be interwoven with this larger canvas”, according to exec producer Greg Walker.

Vegas is not related to the 1978-81 ABC crime drama Vega$ with Robert Urich and Phyllis Davis, or the 2003-08 NBC drama Las Vegas with James Caan – although these two series are far better than what’s being offered here.

Next up was Elementary, a modern day telling of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures. But instead of solving crimes in and around Scotland Yard, he’s fighting the bad guys on the streets of New York City and his partner Watson – is a chick played by Lucy Liu (wow, who thought up this crap?) At the panel, executive producer Rob Doherty talked about the different versions of Sherlock,via Dave Walker of “As a fan, because Sherlock lives in the public domain, he’s been through many, many, many hands. I think that’s actually one of the upsides to the character. I think if so many people couldn’t put their own spins on it, handle it at some point, I don’t know that he would exist in the popular culture the way he does.”

Elementary is perhaps the worst drama of the year and is a candidate for the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame. Terrible premise, awful writing, and this Sherlock guy in this version couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. The good news for Elementary is its competition is weak – especially with NBC’s bone-headed move of low-rated waste Rock Center to the last hour of Thursday primetime. Unless ABC buys Jersey Shore and slots it at 9pm (CT), Elementary unfortunately, is here to stay.

And yes, BBC’s Sherlock is far better than this contrived piece of shit.

– The Anti-Jersey Shore? The new law drama Made In Jersey seeks to combat stereotypes perpetrated by reality series such as Snooki & Co. and The Real Housewives.  “I’m from New Jersey, so I know that people from New Jersey are not what you see”, said co-exec producer Dana Calvo (via Deadline) and is a New Jersey native. “This is sort of a valentine to a state that I don’t think gets a lot of good press.” In the series, a Jersey woman (Janet Montgomery) struggles to prove herself at a law firm just across the river in New York City.

With this show airing on Friday nights and a tepid plot at best, this series will be about as successful as the New Jersey Devils were in the recent Stanley Cup Finals (they lost.)

– Also at TCA: Jeff Probst held a panel to discuss his new syndicated daytime talk show from CBS Television Distribution, which debuts in a few weeks. The Survivor host aims for a highbrow audience  – not from studying Phil Donahue or Oprah Winfrey, but by studying Howard Stern? “The interviewing style of Howard Stern is so underappreciated,” Probst said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He keeps topics moving so quickly. His ability as an interviewer is something I’ve studied for years.”

Probst will continue to host Survivor as the series is taping cycles back-to-back for this upcoming season this summer, while he’ll shoot his talk show at other times of the year. And while Probst has dealt with the crazies on Survivor (NaOnka, Phillip, Russell Hantz, and Colton come to mind), you won’t find people like them on his daytime show. “If you’re looking for Jerry or Maury, this is not your show. I’m not interested in people fighting on stage, I’m not interested in paternity tests.”

The Jeff Probst Show debuts Sept. 10 locally on WBBM-TV in a time period yet to be determined.