April 5, 2012

THE SKED’S 2012/13 FIRST CUT: CBS Needs & Possibilities


This marks the conclusion of SHOWBUZZDAILY‘s pre-Upfronts survey of the broadcast networks, as they reach the conclusion of the current season and decision-making time for the next.  Previously this week, Mitch Metcalf, veteran programming executive Ted Frank and I reviewed the challenges and potential strategies for FOX, ABC, and NBC, which leaves us with CBS.  (And a quick note about CW.)

NOTE:  to the extent specific pilots are discussed or suggested in this series, those are based only on the shows’ auspices and loglines, and not on any knowledge about their actual substance or quality.  Most pilots are still in production as this is being written.
What do you get for the network that has everything?
CBS is at least competitive on every night of the week.  It has the strongest roster of scripted programming in the business, and–partly as a consequence–has been most successful in recent years at building nights.  It was able to announce renewals for an amazing 18 of its current shows when there were still 2 months left in the current season.  The network’s needs, as you’d expect, are limited.
MONDAY:  The introduction of 2 BROKE GIRLS into the 4-sitcom schedule, not to mention the replacement of Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher on 2 1/2 MEN, has gone as well as the network could reasonably have hoped, with both shows reliably scoring in the high 3s at least.  The introduction of The Voice has dampened things a little bit, but the CBS Monday line-up is still as strong as any in television.  The only reason to make any changes (assuming, as is widely expected, that Kutcher signs on for another year of Men) is to strengthen another night and pad the roster even more–and that’s not a bad idea at all.  So 1 of the current group (perhaps HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER or Broke Girls) may well migrate, giving a new comedy a chance.  One possibility is SUPER FUN NIGHT, a Bridesmaids-type comedy about young women (it features and is co-written by Rebel Wilson, a Briesmaids cast member) that could appeal to the Broke Girls audience.    HAWAII 5-0 reliably wins its hour.

TUESDAY:  The network is set with NCIS and its spin-off in the 8-10PM slots.  UNFORGETTABLE hasn’t been doing horribly–NBC would be thrilled to have it–but it loses a big chunk of its lead-in, and CBS could do better.  A possible successor would be the RALPH LAMB PROJECT, which is co-written by Nicholas Pileggi of Goodfellas and toplines Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis and Jason O’Mara in a based-on-a-true-story procedural about a Las Vegas sheriff. 
WEDNESDAYSURVIVOR, CRIMINAL MINDS and the newly rejuvenated CSI are doing fine, no reason to make any changes.
THURSDAY:  CBS hasn’t made any secret of the fact that it would like to take over the 4-sitcom Thursday franchise from NBC, and of course the first step of that process was the successful move of BIG BANG THEORY to the night.  It’s time to launch the 2d hour of the plan, with one of the Monday sitcoms transferred to anchor the 9PM slot.  ROB did well enough at 8:30PM to justify its return, at least for a short order, and 1 or 2 new shows could be tried out during the course of the season, with perhaps the GREG BERLANTI/GREG MALINS romantic comedy starring Joanna Garcia as one of them (although today’s news that the male lead in that project is being recast may give some pause).  PERSON OF INTEREST, which has been building nicely as the NBC and ABC competition have faltered, could slide to 10PM.
FRIDAY:  One question for CBS is what to do with CSIs MIAMI and NY, both of which were conspicuously unmentioned in the network’s mass renewals.  NY seems the more likely to exit, and if there’s no appetite to kill off both shows, MIAMI could move to Fridays.  Other procedural possibilities for the night include THE WIDOW DETECTIVE with John Corbett and Jennifer Beals, or the NICHOLAS WOOTTEN/GREG BERLANTI PROJECT with Holt McCallany and Chi McBride.  THE MENTALIST did well in a Friday try-out this season and could move to 9PM, giving BLUE BLOODS a better lead-in than it’s been getting from CSI NY.
SUNDAY:  No reason to mess with 60 MINUTES or THE AMAZING RACE.  The network could try another new procedural at 9PM, perhaps TROOPER, from the Bruckheimer house of hits and starring Mira Sorvino.  That female-driven drama could lead in to THE GOOD WIFE, which is probably better suited to 10PM.
A note about CW:  That network doesn’t really compete against the other 4, and with its focus on a specific limited demographic (Women 18-34) and its low ratings, it’s more like a cable network that happens to be transmitted via broadcast.  Plus, with the exception of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, virtually all of its shows get essentially the same rating, a narrow 0.4-0.7 range per week.  So while significant changes are probably coming there (hard to believe it can be content with a single series that does over a 1.0 rating), it’s premature to try and figure out the likely strategies, or make any predictions.  We’ll get to CW in due time.

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."