Leave it to CBS – conservative, old-skewing CBS – to make by far the boldest moves of Upfront Week.
Where the other major networks played things relatively safe (ABC is only moving one returning show, Fox will still air “Glee” after “American Idol” for half the season), CBS unveiled a schedule with major changes on five nights of the week.
By far the biggest move: “Survivor” relocates to Wednesdays at 8, leaving the Thursday at 8 timeslot open for “The Big Bang Theory” and the new comedy “$#*! My Dad Says” (based on the less family-friendly Twitter feed @shitmydadsays).
“We kind of thought back to the days when comedy ruled 8 o’clock on Thursdays,” CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl told reporters, “and we wanted to take a big swing at that. If you’re going to do that, we had to bring a big stick, and we bought the biggest 18-49 show on television to the night.”
(The move, by the way, puts “BBT” directly opposite NBC’s “Community,” in a battle for comedy supremacy among TV’s two most Asperger-like characters who have yet to be diagnosed as having Asperger’s. I’m sure Sheldon and “BBT” will win that fight handily, but I am and will remain an Abed man.)
Beyond shifting “BBT” and “Survivor,” CBS has also displaced both of the “CSI” spin-offs and killed its Wednesday comedies and most of its Friday shows.
“We’re calling it ‘aggressive stability,'” Kahl joked.
It’s definitely aggressive. It also looks like by far the most logical schedule of the Big Four.
The schedule, and my thoughts on it, night-by-night:
MONDAY: “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men” are stable at 8 and 9. Utility player “Rules of Engagement” finally gets on the fall schedule at 8:30, and “Men” (which gave Charlie Sheen a big raise to come back) will be followed by another Chuck Lorre sitcom “Mike & Molly,” about a plus-sized pair (Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy) who meet and fall in love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.
“CSI: Miami,” which once upon a time was referred to as the most-watched TV show in the world, has faded enough in recent years that CBS will try to grow a new hit after the Lorre comedies with the “Hawaii Five-O” remake, with Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim (who gets to stay in Hawaii after “Lost” ends) and Grace Park. O’Loughlin has been a kind of pet project of CBS president Nina Tassler. “Five-O” is a brand name, albeit one from 40 years ago. Maybe this is his shot, or maybe the theme song is the only thing people will look forward to.
TUESDAY: Status quo, as it should be, since the combo of “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “The Good Wife” worked so well for the network this year.
WEDNESDAY: “Survivor” is at 8, where, as Kahl pointed out, it’s aired one or two times every year during the NCAA basketball tournament. A few days ago, it looked like NBC was making a smart move putting “Undercovers” into one of the more wide-open timeslots in primetime. It looks much less wide-open now.
“Criminal Minds” is back at 9 (and the Forest Whitaker spin-off was picked up for mid-season), while at 10 we get “The Defenders,” a legal dramedy – “We like to say it’s more of a bromance than a conventional legal drama,” said Tassler – starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell as a pair of slick Vegas defense attorneys. This means there will be three new legal dramas in this timeslot in the fall: this, “Law & Order: LA” and ABC’s “The Whole Truth.” There can only be one survivor, right?
CBS chairman Les Moonves, who kicked off the press breakfast that was once known as “Lox with Les,” defended the cancellation of Wednesday sitcoms “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Gary Unmarried” by saying, bluntly, “guys, the numbers were a 1.7 and a 1.8 and not heading in the right direction.”
THURSDAY: “Big Bang Theory” at 8 (where it should, sadly, crush “Community”), followed by “$#*! My Dad Says” (Tassler says it will be pronounced “Bleep My Dad Says” by the announcers, and when reporters kept pressing her on that, she spelled out the word, B-L-E-E-P), with William Shatner as the dad given to saying offensive things – albeit less offensive than what’s on the Twitter feed.
“He says outrageous stuff,” acknowledged Tassler, “but obviously we’re going to adhere to our time-honored tradition of Standards & Practices at that hour. You can be funny and outrageous and still be at the 8 o’clock hour.”
Though there was speculation that original-recipe “CSI” might swap timeslots with “The Mentalist” (if not move off the night altogether), the two stay in place at 9 and 10, respectively, since CBS wanted some stability to go with the “BBT” move.
FRIDAY: “Ghost Whisperer” is kaput (though, as with “Old Christine,” there are rumors ABC might pick it up for mid-season), as are “Numb3rs” and “Miami Medical.” “Medium” survives at 8, leading into a relocated “CSI: NY” at 9 and then “Blue Bloods,” a new drama about several generations of a family of New York cops, including Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Len Cariou and Will Estes.
“It was a tough call between ‘Ghost Whisperer’ and ‘Medium,'” Kahl said, “but we felt we had to be more aggressive on Friday night.”
CBS, like the other networks, seems to be taking the approach that the only way to beat their recent Friday ratings woes is with familiar material and/or faces. So we get a “CSI” spin-off at 9 (albeit the lowest-rated of the franchise) and Tom Selleck at 10, where NBC is putting Jimmy Smits on Fridays and ABC has Dana Delany.
SATURDAY: Nothing to see here: as usual, two hours of crime show repeats, followed by “48 Hours Mystery.”
SUNDAY: “60 Minutes” at 7, “Amazing Race” at 8, “Undercover Boss” at 9 and then “CSI: Miami” at 10 (replacing “Cold Case,” which was canceled for being old and too expensive for its modest ratings). “Undercover Boss” was one of the season’s biggest new hits and will now get to air in the fall, and Tassler said the network wanted a familiar show at 10 to combat the usual problem in the fall when football overruns push the Sunday shows back to irregular start times.
“Shows with loyal audiences hold up to that better,” she said.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org