May 16, 2018

NIELSENWAR: CBS Fall Schedule & Analysis (Including 5-Network Grid)


Welcome to Upfronts week, when the broadcast networks (or what’s left of them) announce their Fall schedules and attempt to generate billions of dollars worth of excitement from advertisers.  It’s harder than ever to authoritatively analyze the thought process that goes into a broadcaster’s cancellation, renewal and pick-up decisions, because network ad revenues directly tied to 18-49 ratings are now just a piece of the puzzle.  Other projected and actual revenue streams, especially international and SVOD deals (all of which require some level of ownership by the network’s affiliated studio), are now at least as important, as is delayed viewing on multiple platforms–when that viewing includes commercials.  Much of that information is kept away from the public, requiring guesswork on the part of observers.

CBS is a very successful network that’s had the same problem for years:  a lack of new hits.  The Big Bang Theory, Survivor, Blue Bloods and NCIS anchor the weekday line-ups, and they’re all in their second decades, with the latter starting to show significant signs of age, and with very little to back them up.  This past season, Young Sheldon was a quasi-exception, but it’s a spin-off that’s only aired with its parent show, so its strength as a standalone series is unclear.  In addition, although not as fundamental as FOX’s upcoming change in ownership (CBS will retain some version of an in-house studio), the network has a great deal of corporate tumult going on between itself, Viacom and their shared parent company, and there’s a possibility CBS emperor Les Moonves won’t survive the carnage.  In the face of all this, the network has made some significant changes in its fall schedule, but with new shows that look like more of the same, mining an audience that gets older every year.

A look at the line-up follows the chart:

Fall 2018 Broadcast Primetime Schedule NBC FOX ABC CBS





10PM:  Bull

The network ripped up its underperforming Monday line-up and started over, with shows that feel very CBS.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a multicamera sitcom with Damon Wayans Jr and Amber Stevens West as an ordinary couple who suddenly find themselves living with a pop star; it may or may not be a sign of danger that writers Austen Earl and Tim McAuliffe between them have the flop comedies 9JKL, The Great Indoors and Satisfaction in their credits.  It’s followed by HAPPY TOGETHER, a blue-collar multicam that stars Cedric the Entertainer and Max Greenfield, from creator Jim Reynolds, a Big Bang writer/producer.  The MAGNUM PI reboot comes from the Peter Lenkov factory that’s given us Hawaii 5-0 and MacGyver.  The 10PM slot moves Bull from its safe post-NCIS berth on Tuesday, and we’ll see whether it can hold up without that sturdy lead-in.




10PM:  NCIS: New Orleans

The 2 NCIS shows again bracket a compatible newcomer, in this case Dick Wolf’s FBI, yet another procedural from that master of the form.


8PM:  Survivor

9PM:  SEAL Team

10PM:  Criminal Minds

No changes to a line-up that’s been working, although Criminal Minds is getting noticeably creaky and may be near the end of its run.


8PM:  The Big Bang Theory

8:30PM:  Young Sheldon

9PM:  Mom



The network decided that Young Sheldon wasn’t ready to leave the nest, not making the obvious move of having it anchor the new Monday line-up.  The only change of the night is the rebooted MURPHY BROWN, which even by the standards of these revived properties feels elderly.


8PM:  MacGyver

9PM:  Hawaii 5-0

10PM:  Blue Bloods

In some ways CBS’s defining night, stacked with shows that know their audience and get loyalty in return.


7PM:  60 Minutes



10PM:  Madam Secretary

The only change is the addition of GOD FRIENDED ME, a lightly faith-based drama that sounds an awful lot like Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, as ordinary people are guided by a vague spiritual signal to help others.  The creators are Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, who have recently worked on more hard-edged fare like Gotham and CSI: NY.

For midseason, the network has the sitcom FAM, legal drama THE CODE, and its most ambitious offering, the racial shooting drama THE RED LINE from Executive Producers Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti, along with the returns of Elementary, Man With a Plan and Instinct.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."