The firing of two "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (search) stars in a salary dispute was fair and intended to help the TV industry draw the fiscal line, CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Sunday.
Actors Jorja Fox (search) and George Eads (search), who play investigators Sara Sidle and Nick Stokes on the hit CBS crime drama, were dumped last week when they failed to report for work on the upcoming season, he said.
"There comes a point where we feel a contract is a contract. ... We all have to look out for the future of the network television business," said Moonves, co-president and co-chief operating officer of CBS parent company Viacom.
Among the major broadcast networks only CBS and NBC avoided losses last year, he told the Television Critics Association.
Deals with Fox and Eads were renegotiated after two years and a raise was offered for this fifth season although there was no contractual obligation to do so, he said. The actors reportedly wanted a raise in their $100,000-per-episode pay.
Discussions had been under way with their lawyers and there were certain "veiled threats about their not showing up," Moonves said.
A call seeking comment from the actors was not immediately returned Sunday by their publicist.
Production will be halted this week while script revisions are made, Moonves said. The roles played by Fox and Eads have not been recast but the network is "looking at certain people," Moonves added.
Another cast member, Marg Helgenberger (search), reported to work as scheduled last week, he said. Co-star William Petersen is a producer on the series, and was on call for next week.
Asked if he was concerned about damage to one of TV's top-rated series, Moonves said, "Of course." Later, he said it was possible cast members Eric Szmanda and Paul Guilfoyle might play bigger roles.
Last year, "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett successfully staged a salary walkout. Asked to compare the "CSI" actors' situation with that of the Emmy-winning Garrett, Moonves was vague.
"We did a negotiation, we brought him (Garrett) back into the fold," Moonves said. "We're very happy we did."
In a subsequent session with the critics' group, "CSI" co-creator Anthony Zuiker said CBS executives make the business decisions on the show.
Zuiker said he was "saddened by the news," but expressed confidence in the ability of the series' executive producers, Ann Donahue and Carol Mendelsohn, to keep the series on track.
"It is show business and the show must go on," said Zuiker, who was on hand to publicize the second "CSI" spinoff, called "CSI: NY." The other spinoff is "CSI: Miami."
When "CSI NY" cast members were asked to comment on the actions by Fox and Eads, only Carmine Giovinazzo was game.
"I'd be shining Moonves' shoes and caddying for him every weekend if I was making that much money," the actor said.