Friday, March 17, 2006

Super TV preview: CBS

It's good to be CBS. You're at least highly competitive on every night. And you're way out in front on quite a few of them. The other networks pretty much let you HAVE Fridays. And you have exactly TWO weak spots on your lineup.

Furthermore, in comparison to the terrible fall 2004 CBS had, the network had a pretty good fall 2005. It managed to find a hip sitcom (How I Met Your Mother) and further showed off its dominance in the crime genre.

And therein lies the problem. People watch CBS because that's where their remote stays. And when the crime genre reaches overkill (as it's coming perilously close to doing), CBS is going to enter a crisis mode, as many of their shows will seem overdone.

Another problem is that people don't go to CBS expecting hip. HIMYM does all right, but it's under the radar. And the network couldn't figure out how to sell Threshold or Love Monkey. The big, breakout hits aren't going to be on CBS. But CBS will try. Oh, will it try.

When I was doing preparation for this article, I got an e-mail from my friend Jon laying out HIS version of the schedule. And we differed in VERY few places. CBS is that easy to predict. Hence, the shortness of this article.

So let's get started. Here's what the schedule has looked like through the year. When I've stolen an idea from Jon, I've marked it with an asterisk.

And here, of course, are the pilots.

I'm going to start by ripping off one of Jon's ideas.

Sunday:

7:00 p.m. EST/PST: 60 Minutes
8 p.m.: Out of Practice (new night and time slot)*
8:30 p.m.: Play Nice (new series)
9 p.m.: Cold Case (new time slot)*
10 p.m. Edison (new series)

Sunday is CBS' weakest night right now. It starts out well with the 60 Minutes/Cold Case pairing, but then it falls completely apart. The made-for-TV movies aren't working for the network, so I think they'll finally abandon them. Jon's right when he points out that Cold Case has done pretty well against Desperate Housewives when it has been pushed back by football. And when Law and Order: Criminal Intent getting pushed out of that slot by Sunday Night Football, CBS will have the crime game to itself. 60 Minutes has ALWAYS been there, so we'll leave it there. Out of Practice is a sitcom that skews older, and Play Nice is from the Everybody Loves Raymond creative team. It also has Fred Willard, so it looks to skew older as well. Finally, we have Edison, which is technically a crime show, but features a quirky detective. All in all, it's a night that seems destined to attract the older audience. But they don't have a lot on Sundays right now, so it could be a winning strategy for CBS.

Monday:
8 p.m.: The New Adventures of Old Christine (new time slot)
8:30 p.m.: How I Met Your Mother
9 p.m.: Two and a Half Men
9:30 p.m.: The Class (new series)
10 p.m.: CSI: Miami

CBS has had a comedy block here for ages, and it's been successful since the days of Murphy Brown. Two and a Half Men isn't the powerhouse Everybody Loves Raymond was, but it's the top-rated sitcom on television (strange, I know). Perhaps surprisingly, this night is now pretty young and/or hip. Old Christine did VERY well in its two showings last Monday, so I think it will be moved back to anchor the night, finally pushing King of Queens to cancellation (making it the last of the ugly husband/hot wife sitcoms). HIMYM is a solid performer, if not the Friends style breakout the network hoped for, but it's more compatible with Christine than with King of Queens, so it could perk up in year two (especially as the show figures out what it's doing increasingly). Two and a Half Men is still solid. The Class is a show CBS NEEDS to air 13 episodes of, and it's one of the most buzzed about pilots out there, so they'll give it their best time slot. And CSI: Miami is a constant winner in that slot. So there you go. A young/hip CBS night. Huh.

Tuesday:

8 p.m.: NCIS
9 p.m.: The Unit
10 p.m.: Jericho (new series)

It's action Tuesday! NCIS is a huge hit. The Unit managed to hold its own against both House AND American Idol (and is also a huge hit). Right now, The Amazing Race isn't holding its own in the 10 p.m. slot. So, we put the show CBS HOPES makes it hip next year there: Jericho, the story of a small town after a nuclear war. It's supposed to be a goofy action soap. I don't know how that's going to work, but as an end-of-the-world junky, I can't wait!

Wednesday:

8 p.m.: The Amazing Race (new night and time slot)
9 p.m.: Criminal Minds
10 p.m.: CSI: New York

See how little work I have to do? The Amazing Race is a family show. It deserves a family slot. After that, two hours of crime-solving mania. Criminal Minds improbably stood up to Lost AND American Idol and held its own. Crazy. And CSI: New York is. . .a CSI show.

Thursday:

8 p.m.: Survivor
9 p.m.: CSI
10 p.m.: Without a Trace

The best-scheduled night of television in years. Each flows perfectly into the next. And that's why it's been the same for year after year now and is about to enter its FIFTH year as a lineup. Only Survivor shows signs of fading. If CSI starts to go, though, look out. The CBS house will come tumbling down.

Friday:

8 p.m.: The Ghost Whisperer
9 p.m.: Ultra (new series)
10 p.m.: Numb3rs

Close to Home would be an instant renewal on any other network. On CBS, where its ratings are merely adequate, it stands to be canceled, simply for not being a top 20 show. Ultra has a fun cast and it skews female. It should flow well with Ghost Whisperer. Plus, it's from the creator of Joan of Arcadia and is just one of the many superhero shows on the pilot docket. Nothing even remotely challenges Numb3rs, so we'll just leave it where it is.

Saturday:

Jon has this crazy theory that CBS may put Close to Home here. I don't think they will. It's just too expensive to throw on a night when no one's watching. Still, all of the networks would like to be back in business on this night, and CBS DOES have a storied tradition here. So if something like this happens, you heard it here first.

As far as midseason goes, Creature Comforts, an animated series, already has a seven episode commitment (to run between Survivor seasons, perhaps?).

Here are other pilots I could see making the final schedule or the midseason schedule.

The Big Bang Theory
Company Town
In the Shadow of the Law
Orpheus
Sex, Power, Love and Politics
Shark
Smith
Untitled Paul Reiser Project
Waterfront

As you, perhaps, can tell, I'm not a big fan of CBS' development this year.

So there we go!

Next time: America's favorite fantasy network league: The CW!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to Jericho, you can put it on any night and I'll watch! Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0494730/

for a whole site dedicated to the new show.

Cheers!