May 18, 2016



Conservative CBS is making lots of changes next fall.

UPDATED with reactions to trailers, which are available here.  

Fall 2016 SBD Broadcast Prime Schedule with NBC FOX ABC CBS


No network preaches the “Everything is just fine in broadcast TV” scripture louder than CBS, but the fact is that its biggest hits (The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Survivor) are aging, and the network hasn’t yet come up with more than moderate successes like Scorpion in recent years.  Clearly it felt the need to shake things up next fall, with changes on almost every night of the week.  Here’s a night-by-night look:

MONDAY:  Once again, while Thursday Night Football airs, The Big Bang Theory will do duty on Mondays, this time launching the Kevin James comedy KEVIN CAN WAIT, which leads into an hour of 2 Broke Girls and The Odd Couple.  In November, when Big Bang returns to Thursdays, Kevin Can Wait will itself launch the Matt LeBlanc vehicle MAN WITH A PLAN.  Scorpion, meanwhile, moves to 10PM, with a shaky lead-in from Odd Couple.  With a trio of shows headed by Kevin James, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry, this line-up may be a workmanlike success for CBS, but it certainly won’t make the average age of their viewers any younger.  Scorpion will now have to duke it out with two newcomers, NBC’s highly-touted Timeless and ABC’s Conviction, and the NBC show, in particular, could be trouble.  (Trailers:  The model for the new CBS sitcoms seems to be LAST MAN STANDING, with its older-and-crankier-but-still-wiser male lead and line-line-joke rhythm.  KEVIN CAN WAIT will hope to store up on fans of the Paul Blart movies, and MAN WITH A PLAN will make some of us long for more seasons of EPISODES.)

TUESDAY:  NCIS, despite its age, is still a mainstay, and it should be the perfect lead-in for legal drama BULL, which just so happens to star Michael Weatherly, whose last appearance as an NCIS regular was last night.  The move of NCIS: New Orleans to 10PM should give CBS a solid night, and Bull is probably the network’s best chance for a new drama hit.  (Trailer:  BULL may be a hit, but it appears to be thoroughly routine, with a protagonist who smugly infuriates everyone yet is always the smartest one in the room.)

WEDNESDAY:  A reprise of last fall’s line-up, with Survivor and Criminal Minds followed by the return of Code Black.  It’s hard to think CBS is wildly enthusiastic about having to bring back Code Black, which was steady but at a bubble level, especially since the competition from ABC’s Designated Survivor is likely to be much stronger than what the medical show faced from Nashville.  Earlier in the evening, the two elderly CBS shows will continue to do their numbers, but nothing on Wednesdays is going to improve for CBS.

THURSDAY:  After Thursday Night Football finishes the CBS portion of its season, Big Bang Theory returns, this time to launch THE GREAT INDOORS, a multi-camera sitcom with Joel McHale.  There’s nothing to make one think that this will finally be the companion show Big Bang has been seeking for years.  In the 9PM hour, Mom will be followed by Life In Pieces, and we’ll find out whether that show has any velocity without Big Bang as its lead-in.  Medical drama PURE GENIUS airs at 10PM, against How To Get Away With Murder and The Blacklist, and although those shows have been in decline, Genius will still have an uphill climb to make an impression in the hour.  (Trailers:  THE GREAT INDOORS is exactly the kind of show COMMUNITY would have turned into a meta-commentary on the creative bankruptcy of network sitcoms, back when Joel McHale had a soul.  PURE GENIUS feels very soft for a show that’s going to face double-barreled competition.)

FRIDAY:  The strangest part of the CBS schedule is the placement of MACGYVER in the Friday 8PM slot.  Not only is it an untried show (albeit with a recognizable title) being asked to self-launch, but it will be undergoing a complete revamp from its discarded pilot, with a new writer/showrunner and an almost entirely replaced cast, which is a lot of work to do effectively in 4 months.  The bar isn’t high in that hour, but this is still an odd risk. Rest home residents Hawaii 5-0 and Blue Bloods continue in the later hours, and will go on pleasing their longtime fans.  (Trailer:  The MACGYVER trailer is fairly pointless, since as noted the show is going to be completely redone.  Clearly the message is that this is going to be a younger, cooler McGyver, which seems like a contradiction in terms.)

SATURDAY:  Reruns and newsmagazines.

SUNDAY:  60 Minutes is followed by the transferred NCIS: LA, which should do about as well as it did in the Monday 10PM slot.  It’s not clear how compatible the show will be with Madam Secretary, but that series putters around with moderate numbers anyway, and was hardly going to find another Good Wife as its mate. Elementary has shown no strength in its recent Sunday 10PM airings, and may be a sacrificial lamb on a night that will be dominated by the NFL on NBC all fall.  It has to be considered a candidate for the midseason trashbin.

Unusually for CBS, the midseason bench only contains two dramas (along with the return of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders):  the broadcast-TV translation of the very R-rated movie TRAINING DAY (the only new CBS show not to be at least co-produced in-house, because it’s based on a Warners property) and Katherine Heigl/Laverne Cox legal drama DOUBT.  That won’t allow for much room for error next fall.  (Trailers:  CBS hasn’t yet posted a trailer for DOUBT.  TRAINING DAY, not unexpectedly, seems like a far more conventional procedural–which is to say, infinitely tamer–than the original movie.


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."