At CBS's winter press tour, we played guess the rating, got inside Jenna Elfman's brain, and learned about semi-heaving bosoms

By Jennifer Armstrong
January 18, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
Tom Cavanagh: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

We kicked off the morning of CBS’s presentations at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour with a laundry list of statistics demonstrating just how dominant the network is in the ratings — No. 1 in the free world; 17.5 million viewers for the previous night’s NCIS even against an American Idol season premiere that drew a staggering 35.5 million; No. 1 among households with blue carpeting in the living room….But for the rest of the day, I still had to keep looking at my network-issued name tag to remember who was presenting today. A dramedy with a young cast and hip music? Game shows? Comedies with female leads? What is CBS trying to do? Take away our go-to jokes about crime shows and Metamucil? Apparently so. Some highlights from the network’s panels on Wednesday, Jan. 18:

You be the ratings analyst When I headed to the conference room for the day, I hadn’t yet checked on the previous night’s ratings for the premiere of the Tom Cavanagh dramedy Love Monkey. So I had to play guess the ratings number based purely on the network’s comments. You can play at home now. Your clues: CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler seemed really psyched about ”potential” for ”growth.” Exec producer and creator Michael Rauch talked about doing ”quite well in younger demographics.” Cavanagh said, ”We were in the air [flying from New York to L.A.] while the show was on, and we thought we’d land and they’d be like, ‘You don’t have a show anymore, you’re going home on Jet Blue.’ ” But, hey, they were there, so it must’ve gone okay, right? Answer: 8.6 million. If it weren’t for those darn NCIS ratings, that number might sound a little better.

Two from the Guilty Pleasures Department On Gameshow Marathon, an adaptation of a British series, celebrities (and by celebrities, we probably mean ”celebrities”) will compete in a different classic game show every week — think The Price Is Right, Beat the Clock — with one person eliminated each week until there’s a winner. CBS also has five different telenovela-style projects in development; the best of them should air this summer. ”The bosoms may not heave as much,” Tassler said, comparing CBS’ versions with their soapy Spanish-language inspirations. ”We’re going to modify it for our audience.”

Most random revelation of the day is from Jenna Elfman In a very long-winded answer (which included an analysis of the cultural value system of today’s youth and a detailed critique of overly demanding stars) to a question about working with Dabney Coleman (who had nothing to do with either of the above), Elfman provided the following insight into her new sitcom, Courting Alex: ”Elaine Stritch is a dear friend of mine.”

If this show is half as funny as its panel discussion… I’m in for The New Adventures of Old Christine, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a harried single mom. Answering the question journalists loooove to ask, about the Seinfeld Curse, Louis-Dreyfus said, ”I have no worries about that because I’m on a heavy dose of antibiotics right now.” Comparing Christine with Elaine: ”She has a pathetic quality that is similar, so set your TiVos.” And creator Kari Lizer, discussing her switch from acting (she played Matlock’s law clerk) to writing: ”I was reluctant. It sounded like a lot of work to me, and people didn’t brush my hair anymore.”

Least-informed question of the day One reporter asked Robert Patrick, who’s starring in the military drama The Unit, how the technical adviser on the show stacked up against the technical advice he received shooting his upcoming film The Marine. Patrick’s response? ”I’m not playing a Marine [in the movie]. There was no technical adviser, and it’s not about the military.” Okay, then.