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HRTS Member Profile: Wendi Trilling

Wendi Trilling

Wendi Trilling

Wendi Trilling is Executive Vice President, Comedy Development, CBS Entertainment. I recently had a chance to interview Wendi to discuss MASH, broke girls and consistency.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I grew up on Long Island, NY, watching pretty much unlimited amounts of TV like a lot of 1970’s kids. I have such strong memories of watching the CBS Saturday night lineup when I slept over at my grandparents’ house…All in the Family, MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Carol Burnett Show. What could better than that?

In college I majored in Screen Studies, but really didn’t know how I would put that to use. I found myself living in Boston and working as an advertising copywriter but felt I had not yet found the perfect career for me. Then I moved to LA on a bit of a whim, thinking it would be a one-year adventure, and was fortunate enough to land an assistant job in the current department at CBS. It was a very lucky break for me.

Q: TWO BROKE GIRLS was Top 10 in viewers 18-49 this past season, when developing new material at what point do you sense that you might have a hit?
-Two Broke Girls was exciting from the very beginning because Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings came to us with a great script and we had to go through a very competitive process to persuade Warner Bros. TV to bring it to CBS. And then when we were lucky enough to cast Kat Dennings early on, we felt like we had something very special. That said, development for me always feels like a bit of a roller coaster ride. At various points in the process, every show feels like it’s going to be a big hit and every show feels like it may become a dead pilot. I try not to let myself get too excited when things start coming together in a promising way – but I usually can’t help it.

Q: You developed TWO AND A HALF MEN, what are some of the factors that have made it so consistently compelling over the years?
-great writing and terrific actors. All of our most successful comedies have had one thing in common: incredible showrunners who have stayed with the shows for the entire run. From Phil Rosenthal on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND to Chuck Lorre on TWO AND A HALF MEN to Chuck and Bill Prady on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Mark Roberts and Chuck on MIKE & MOLLY, and Carter Bays & Craig Thomas on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER – these shows get better and better because the brilliant minds that created them are still there every day keeping them great.

Q: In your time at CBS, what are some of the ways in which the industry has changed?
-it’s become much more competitive. When I was a new development executive, there were only a few networks for scripted programming and we could wait for pitches to walk in the door. There are now many more outlets available for producers, and we are extremely proactive about going into the market ourselves to find the best projects and the best writers and producers to bring hit shows to CBS.

Q: Anything you would like to add?
-I’ve had a fairly unusual experience in television being at one network for so many years. But I have seen this network go from third place to first because of the great leadership of Leslie Moonves, Nina Tassler and David Stapf at the studio. And because of the amazing team of people who work here – especially Julie Pernworth and Edy Mendoza who have worked on the development of every single one of our hit comedies.

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