At TV's summer press tour, the Eye's entertainment prez predicts ''Criminal Minds'' will stay strong despite star Mandy Patinkin's exit, and expresses high hopes for eyebrow-raiser ''Kid Nation''

By Lynette Rice
Updated July 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Cliff Lipson

CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler did her best to both court controversy — and avoid it — Wednesday morning at the network’s annual shindig for television reporters. She said she hoped that Kid Nation — the new reality show that chronicles kids as they create a community sans adults — will ”stir public debate,” while she downplayed Mandy Patinkin’s sudden decision to leave Criminal Minds in the fall due to ”creative differences.” The network announced earlier this week that a contract dispute had nothing to do with Patinkin’s resignation and that it will eventually replace the actor. Patinkin is expected to return for one more episode.

”The show is very strong,” she said of the procedural drama, which is entering its third season. ”People come to that show for the E-ticket, the white-knuckle ride. This show will go on.” Only when pressed repeatedly did Tassler admit that ”creative differences is a euphemism for personal issues.”

As for Kid Nation, the reality show from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘s Tom Forman, Tassler admitted she was looking for something that would ”change the landscape.”

”It is an extraordinary group of kids and there are aspirational elements, but we know we are going to create some controversy,” Tassler said. ”I don’t want this to have a negative connotation, but it’s good we are talking about the issues and challenges.”

In other news, Tassler said her decision to table The New Adventures of Old Christine until midseason was a no-brainer because Rules of Engagement — which will take over the 9:30 p.m. Monday timeslot — was the No. 1 new comedy last year. And the Eye is no closer to hiring a replacement for Bob Barker on The Price is Right, though Tassler did admit that Drew Carey (who’s currently hosting Power of 10 for CBS) is among the candidates up for the job.

Tassler did share a few plot points for the upcoming season, among them:

— William Petersen and Anthony LaPaglia will do crossover episodes of CSI and Without a Trace.

How I Met Your Mother fans will receive more hints about who’s actually the mother in the title.

CSI: NY will travel to a virtual world to solve a crime.

— Jake (Angus T. Jones) will start junior high on Two and a Half Men.

— Horatio Crane (David Caruso) will discover he has a biological son on CSI: Miami.

— The music of Nirvana will serve as the soundtrack for the season premiere of Cold Case.

— The handful of people who still watch Ghost Whisperer will not only be treated to new mythology on the show, but also will learn that Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her husband didn’t choose their hometown — their hometown chose them.