CBS gives up idea of anchor team

1/21/2006
BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Whether or not Katie Couric jumps from NBC to CBS to host The CBS Evening News, newly installed CBS News president Sean McManus said he's focusing his search on finding a primary anchor, singular. It appears the network is no longer interested in an anchor team, perhaps because ABC went that route in replacing Peter Jennings.

"I think that having one person as your primary anchor is the way to go, " McManus said. "I give ABC a lot of credit for trying a lot of new things. Anyone who says that the way the evening news has been produced and presented for the last 25 years is the way to go probably shouldn't be running a news division. Having said that, I don't think there's any reason to tear up the format and break the mold."

CBS Corp. president Leslie Moonves had been pushing an anchor team format a year ago, but McManus said he and Moonves agree on the need for a single anchor "who can be the face of CBS News hopefully for the next decade and a half," including during times of national crisis like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina.

Fans seemed to universally loathe CBS's mostly landlocked family edition of The Amazing Race, and CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler acknowledged it was a failed experiment.

"We tried something; I don't think we were particularly successful with it, but the interesting thing is sometimes you get criticized for not experimenting with a form, " she said. "In this case we did. Our producers wanted to try something different, and we supported that. "

Race host Phil Keoghan is also happy to get back to the traditional continent-hopping teams-of-two format when the show returns at the end of next month.

"For me the race is really about faces and places, " he said, "and I felt if you take the places away, you do lose something."

Ali LeRoi, executive producer of UPN's Everybody Hates Chris (8 p.m. Thursdays), said his formula for success is simple.

"We don't pander, we don't think the audience is stupid," he said. "We're not trying dazzle them , we don't try to make it quick and flashy, 'Look, we've got a big wide-angle lens! The kid's making a face!' We just try to tell fairly informed, genuine stories."

Chris, based loosely on the childhood of comedian Chris Rock, premiered with critical plaudits and promotional hype aplenty, but LeRoi didn't take the raucous launch too seriously. "We're stellar compared to all of the [stuff] that's out there," he said. "There's so much bad stuff, it's like, 'That's not bad' and then 'That's not bad' turns into, 'Hey, it's amazing!'‚óŹ"

Part of the success comes in casting guileless children in leading roles.

"They don't have Hollywood polish," LeRoi said, turning to young star Tyler James Williams. "He's not portraying an awkward 13-year-old kid. Look at him, he is an awkward 13-year-old kid."

"What you see is what you get," replied Williams, who also said he has a new name when he walks down the street: "That Kid From Everybody Hates Chris."

Chris got off to a strong ratings start but declined to a more realistic UPN ratings level in the weeks since.

UPN Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff expressed satisfaction for Chris's ratings and for Veronica Mars, but she declined to say whether either will be back next season.

America's Next Top Model returns for a new cycle on March 8. Ostroff announced the pickup of two more editions of Top Model for the 2006-07 TV season.

An Odd Couple -like reality show starring 'Nsync bandmates Lance Bass and Joey Fatone, tentatively titled Out of Sync, is in development.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars in the midseason CBS comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine, but she'll entertain no talk that this show will meet the same fate as Watching Ellie because of a "Seinfeld curse."

"I've never met anyone in the industry, or, you know, a thinking person really, who thought that meant anything," she said.

In Christine, Louis-Dreyfus plays a single mother who has a civil relationship with her ex-husband.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen, the TV editor for the Post-Gazette, is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles.