POSTED BY STUART LEVINE
The hot topic at the Nina Tassler panel at TCA on Wednesday was Mandy Patinkin's mysterious exiting of "Criminal Minds." Questions came in different forms but CBS Entertainment prexy Tassler stayed on point, saying only that Patinkin (pictured left) "came to me and asked to be released for personal issues."
Is it that Patinkin wanted out to work on another project? Was it health-related? Does he get just tired of the series grind and decides enough's enough?
Tassler wouldn't budge. She said several times that she hoped that Patinkin would come out in the near future to tell his version of events, but it doesn't seem likely. What's in it for him by explaining why he wanted out?
It certainly would've been worth a day's pay to be a fly on the wall in Leslie Moonves' office when he heard Patinkin wanted out just to be able catch a glimpse of Mt. Les erupting. CBS has been burned by the actor before when he bailed after the first season of the David E. Kelley hospital drama "Chicago Hope," which despite having the misfortune of premiering against "ER" had a very successful run.
So Tassler and Moonves knew what they were getting into when they signed up Patinkin for "Minds." And the fact that he's the lead of the show makes the transition that much more difficult. Supposedly, a half-dozen or so scripts that were already written for the new season will now have to be trashed and started anew.
Tassler was quick to say that show would go on with a new actor (who hasn't been selected yet) and that there have been many series that have withstood actor defections and soldiered on, with the aforementioned "ER" a shining example.
Tassler cracked up the room when she acknowledged "creative difference is a euphemism for personal issues." And when a critic asked, "What's the euphemism for personal issues?," even she had to laugh.
But there's not many involved in this mess who are chuckling. A contract was broken, a showrunner is left without the star of his show and a network feels burned. And a talented but unreliable actor walks away. Needless to say, CBS won't be in the Mandy Patinkin business again anytime soon.
As for the other networks who are intrigued by his resume of hit shows, here's some advice: buyer beware.
-- Stuart Levine