FALL LINE-UP REPORT
Four New Series; Changes on Five Nights
As always, CBS is best positioned for the future with a returning roster of hits that include the strongest comedies, the highest quality reality, and an abundance of dramas that continue to resonate. Only two of the three CSI’s on the fall line-up is no surprise: the network axed 10-year-old CSI: Miami with David Caruso. Nor is the still heavy reliance on crime solvers. If it works, and it still does very well, there is no reason to “fix” it.
Most surprising on CBS’ schedule, perhaps, was the absence of a rumored two-hour Thursday comedy block. The Eye net, instead, opted to keep freshman hit Person of Interest in in the Thursday 9 p.m. hour, but with different lead-in support: Two and a Half Men.
Last year at this time, pundits were busy handicapping the future of Two and a Half Men. Will it work with Ashton Kutcher? Or will bad boy Charlie Sheen get the last laugh? The sampling, as expected, was enormous, and the early fall tune-in carried the sitcom to year-to-year rating gains. But facing both Dancing With the Stars on ABC and The Voice on NBC in midseason took some toll, and waning curiosity was reflected in the numbers. While Ashton and company will now have the lead-in support of red-hot The Big Bang Theory, a better move would have been to find a promising new entry instead of show losing steam creatively. The future of any network falls heavily in young product that can carry it into the future and that is not Two and a Half Men anymore.
Remember all those years NBC squandered the lead-in support from sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld? CBS, at present, is doing the same with The Big Bang Theory.
2 Broke Girls, which was expected to move to Thursday, will now inherit the Monday 9 p.m. half-hour out of new Max Mutchnick and David Kohan comedy Partners (and into Mike & Molly). And there is every reason to believe that this season’s new breakout hit comedy will keep the imperative Monday 9 p.m. half-hour alive and well on the house of hits next season. Excluding the fall of 1984 (when a strike delayed the start of the season), CBS has aired a comedy in the Monday 9 p.m. half-hour every season since I Love Lucy in 1951. 2 Broke Girls, no doubt, is clearly worthy of being the next “A” lister to inherit that honor.
With a schedule any competing programmer would envy, there was only a new for four new series on CBS (dramas Vegas, Elementary and Made in Jersey and aforementioned sitcom Partners). And unlike any competitor, each of the new entries has proven lead-in support (yes…lead-in still matters) and each stands a better chance of finding an audience than it would have elsewhere. But the two disadvantages of airing on CBS are 1) the higher expectations; and 2) the potential older skew. Approximately 11-million viewers for a drama like Unforgettable, for example, was not good enough for a second season. Nor was a respectable delivery for A Gifted Man in the very difficult Friday 8 p.m. hour.
While most dramas on CBS deliver in total viewers (exlcuding canceled NYC 22, perhaps), the obstacle they face is the older skew. Foolishly, advertisers do not want to reach anyone over age 50. And that philosophy is unlikely to change anytime in the near future.
Overall, CBS has a solid fall schedule, peppered with returning hits and a quartet of promising new programs. No network has planned as well as this one has over the years, and the Eye net is worthy of accolades aplenty. But since CBS is not without its weaknesses, here are a few. Returning The Good Wife was not exactly a big draw on Sunday, the remaining two occupants in the CSI franchise are down, and Saturday is another wash. If there was one network that could attempt to rejuvenate the evening, it is CBS. But chances of that ever happening are nil.
Since the goal of every network is to program responsibly, there is one more bone to pick with the Eye net. While even a deteriorating CSI: NY with Gary Sinise, which shifts to Fridays at 8 p.m., is likely to deliver more viewers A Gifted Man, something this violent does not belong in what was once referred to as the “Family Viewing Hour.” Too bad that rule does not exist anymore.
Grade for CBS: A-