A year ago, CBS shook up both upfront week and its own conservative reputation with by far the most aggressive scheduling overhaul of any of the networks – moving “Survivor,” “The Big Bang Theory” and both “CSI” spin-offs to new nights – even as the network’s scheduling boss tried to sell it as “aggressive stability.” Because those big moves worked out, the new CBS schedule won’t be quite as radical – Kahl used the phrase “dynamic stability” this time – but still moves a few notable pieces around the week.
“CSI” finally moves out of the Thursday home it’s occupied for a decade, while “The Good Wife” will no longer get to benefit from the double-“NCIS” lead-in. And in a move that’s at once the most shocking of upfront week and yet completely irrelevant, “Rules of Engagement” is moving to Saturdays at 8 – the first scripted network show to be on a Saturday fall schedule since CBS itself abandoned the night in favor of repeats and “48 Hours Mystery” back in 2004.
The moves are notable and logical but (other than “Rules”) not surprising. “CSI” is getting up there in age, and its ratings aren’t what they were, and Kahl suggested the goal was mainly to plug the problematic Wednesday at 10 timeslot with a known quantity. “Good Wife” loses a good chunk of its “NCIS: LA” lead-in and was likely moving somewhere (though many had predicted Fridays).
CBS has a strategy that’s worked for itself for a long time now under the reign of Les Moonves and lieutenants like Kahl and entertainment president Nina Tassler. Every now and then they’ll make a bold move like “Big Bang” to Thursdays at 8, but usually it’s about keeping the wheel turning, developing at least a couple of successful new shows a season (“Mike & Molly,” “Hawaii Five-0” and “Blue Bloods” all return from last year’s development) and enduring the usual jokes about the age of their audience, even though CBS actually does pretty well these days with adults 18-49.
Fienberg has the full schedule up. My thoughts, night-by-night:
MONDAY: Kahl said that while the network had backup plans for life without “Two and a Half Men” in the event a Charlie Sheen replacement couldn’t be found (Ashton Kutcher signed up for the job last week), they never bothered assembling an entire “Men”-less alternate schedule, because “We kind of worked under the assumption that we would” get a deal done.
So with “Men” back, “Mad Love” dead, and “Rules” elsewhere, it’s a mostly familiar night with one newbie: “2 Broke Girls,” starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as friends who work as waitresses at a greasy spoon,” from comedienne Whitney Cummings (who’s starring in her own self-titled NBC sitcom) and “Sex and the City” boss Michael Patrick King.
TUESDAY: CBS was hoping to “get maybe a little broader” at 10 o’clock, referring to “The Good Wife” having a good-sized but very old audience. So in comes Poppy Montgomery in “Unforgettable” as an ex-cop who remembers everything that’s ever happened to her – an extremely rare condition she shares with one of the show’s consultants, actress Marilu Henner.
WEDNESDAY: “Survivor” did just fine there, “Criminal Minds” is what it is (and the canceled “Suspect Behavior” spin-off wasn’t), and now “CSI” gets to spend its dotage here at 10.
THURSDAY: “Big Bang” did very well here this season, and now leads into the odd-couple comedy “How to Be a Gentleman,” starring David Hornsby (Cricket from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and also the show’s creator), Kevin Dillon and Dave Foley.
Rather than move “The Mentalist” to 9, CBS is taking a gamble on what Tassler said was their highest-testing pilot in 10 years in “Person of Interest.” Produced by J.J. Abrams and created by “Memento” and “The Dark Knight” co-writer Jonathan Nolan, it’s a sort of modern-day “Equalizer” starring Michael Emerson from “Lost” as a wealthy man with a software program that can predict what people will be involved in violent crimes and Jim Caviezel as the ex-special forces op Emerson sends to prevent those crimes from happening. (Ben Linus and Jesus fighting crime together? Of course it tested highly!)
FRIDAY: “CSI: NY” survived being on the bubble, and “Blue Bloods” will be back with another showrunner and a reported nudge towards a more procedural storytelling style. At 8 is “A Gifted Man,” a sort of mix of a medical drama and “Ghost Whisperer,” with Patrick Wilson as a materialistic doctor who, with a nudge from the apparition of his late wife, decides to take over a free clinic.
SATURDAY: Again, the last time a network entered a season with scripted shows on Saturday, it was CBS in 2003-4 with “The District” and “Hack.” (Ah, “Hack.” So many pun-filled review headlines…) “Rules” is here for a few reasons: 1)CBS is very high on the two new comedies (and several others still in contention for mid-season) and with “Men” returning, didn’t have room on a weeknight; 2)”Rules” now gets 22-episode seasons, which makes it hard to hold it for mid-season anymore; 3)CBS owns a cut of the syndication money and wants to keep the show on long enough to make those back-end profits, and – perhaps most importantly, from the way Tassler made it sound – 4)Putting “Rules” (a show that manages to attract an audience in any timeslot, with virtually no promotion) here allows them to give a decent lead-in to repeats of “Broke Girls” and “Gentlemen,” helping expose those shows to more viewers in their early days.
SUNDAY: “Undercover Boss” gets held for mid-season, and “Good Wife” slides in between “Amazing Race” and “CSI: Miami” – and directly opposite “Desperate Housewives,” which no doubt has some audience overlap. Tassler – who called “Wife” “the best drama on television” and got a little overheated talking about last night’s finale – said “We know we have a loyal fanbase coming over here, and ‘Housewives’ has been here for a while” – perhaps suggesting that, for once, it was one of CBS’ competitors in danger of seeming old.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
See also: First pictures from CBS’ new series.