Sometimes, the best stories fall into your lap when you least expect them. At TCA summer tour, I was attending the CBS/Showtime/CW party when I unexpectedly was given face time with Mark Harmon, who very rarely grants interviews (I fact I know firsthand, after spending years unsuccessfully trying to land an interview with him while I was at People). The result is this somewhat unconventional Daily Beast profile of Harmon, who is the world’s biggest star, but also one of its most humble. As I wrote,
Harmon is an anomaly in today’s overshare-first-ask-questions-later pop culture: an anti-celeb. There’s no gushing about the secrets of his 27-year marriage to Mork & Mindy star Pam Dawber (which is more like 270 in Hollywood years), no off-the-cuff speeches about politics or anything else controversial; no statements, in fact, that aren’t in some way related to his show. And his actions speak just as softly as his words: When you search “Mark Harmon” on TMZ, not a single story comes up, which doesn’t even seem possible. He’s perhaps the only person in Hollywood who says he wants his work to speak for itself, and actually means it.
Harmon talks about his quiet approach to stardom, whether he feels pressure as the man at the center of a billion-dollar franchise, how he came to executive produce NCIS: New Orleans and how much longer he’ll stick around on NCIS, which is enterting its 12th season.
After a bit of a hiatus, I returned to Parade to put together a Fall TV Preview, which was one of my first stories for them last year. My take on this shows are how they managed to be both fresh and familiar — and have a lot in common with some of your favorite shows.
When I filed, I didn’t know that this would be my very last Parade story. But sadly, the magazine was sold last week and the entire editorial staff, including all my favorite editors, was laid off as editorial operations move from New York to Nashville
During the next month, 20 new shows will debut, and half of them will be lucky to make it to a second season. As I wrote at Quartz, CBS is trying its best to beat the odds:
Its new shows are almost carbon copies of a beloved long-running series in time slots immediately before them (known as a show’s lead-in) or after them (its lead-out), in an effort to capture as much of the returning show’s audience as possible.
At TCA summer press tour, I spoke with CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler about her strategy that paired Criminal Minds with Stalker, Madam Secretary with The Good Wife and (duh!) NCIS with NCIS: New Orleans:
“It may not be where people end up consistently watching a show, but when you’re in this ‘discovery’ phase—when audiences are trying and sampling—that’s when I think lead-in matters more than anything,” Tassler told Quartz.
NCIS was recently named the most-watched drama in the world. Now the show is moving on to the next phrase of its global dominance, with the new CBS spinoff, NCIS: New Orleans, which the creative team discussed at TCA summer press tour. As I wrote at Quartz, while other networks might scoff at NCIS, CBS is laughing all the way to the bank:
“Our competitors may call it old-skewing. We call it a billion dollar franchise,” CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler said, adding that she is always looking to see if one of her shows can “expand to the global dominance of an NCIS. That is the Holy Grail.”
While the first NCIS spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles, is almost as big a hit as the original, NCIS: New Orleans star Scott Bakula knows that success isn’t guaranteed: “We have to earn our place. It’s not a given.”
It’s upfronts time once again: the annual week in which broadcast execs unveil their new TV lineups to advertisers. And as I wrote at Quartz, as networks grapple with season-to-season ratings decline, they are trying a new tactic: approaching their lineups as if they are summer movie schedules.
The networks are coming to the same conclusion as the movie studios: the best way to potentially attract huge audiences, both domestically and internationally, is by relying on “safe” projects featuring well-established, beloved brands. That’s a big reason why Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was one of the few new series to get a renewal this year.
And if a network picks up my NCIS: Avengers idea, I’d better get a cut of the profits!