CBS wins battle for new drama ‘Hostages’

The Canadian Press
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CBS president Nina Tassler

CBS president Nina Tassler calls herself “insanely competitive” and says she aggressively pursued the new psychological thriller “Hostages” after learning the show’s creators were eyeing the Fox network.

“Sometimes they keep a few things hidden because they’ve earmarked another network — which drives me crazy,” Tassler said Monday at the Banff World Media Festival.

Tassler credits Christina Davis, the executive vice-president of drama series development for CBS, for bringing it to her attention.

“Christina came into my office and said, ‘We have to have this pitch. We must buy it.’ They were prepared to sell it to Fox because it’s highly serialized and we’ve had a tremendous amount of success with procedural and closed-ended shows.”

That sparked a series of phone calls late on a Friday to track down Jonathan Littman, who was eventually dragged out of his niece’s bat mitzvah in New Jersey.

“I told him we have to have this project. I think we made the deal in a little less than an hour and we closed it and got that project,” recalled Tassler.

Tassler acknowledges that a 15-episode series is a bit of a change for CBS, which generally features 22 instalments with successful procedural shows such as “NCIS.”

“The beauty of it is that we are still a broadcaster and that gives you an opportunity to take risks — to try certain things,” said Tassler. “I think with a show like ‘Hostages,’ and going with a limited run, we knew we had to provide the audience with opportunities to catch up with viewings, to stay current with viewing.”

Tassler said the show will run for 11 straight episodes, take a brief hiatus and come back with four more. Writers, she said, have enough material in mind to last two or three years.

Another newcomer to the fall schedule that Tassler is particularly high on is “The Millers,” a comedy starring Canadian actor Will Arnett as a recently divorced news reporter who moves in with his parents — who are having marital problems of their own.

It co-stars Beau Bridges and dramatic actress Margo Martindale, who recently won an Emmy for her role as Mags Bennett on “Justified.”

“She’s a wonderful, wonderful actress. She came in and auditioned. In real life she is a wonderfully funny person,” said Tassler.

“There were people who were a little nervous. She is known primarily for her dramatic roles, but I think what was so exciting is she brought so much gravitas to her character.”

The Banff World Media Festival runs through Wednesday.

Organizations: CBS, Banff World Media Festival.Tassler, Millers

Geographic location: New Jersey, Banff

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