Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Look Ahead: CBS 2008-09

For five seasons, CBS was able to take pride in the fact that even as NBC, ABC and FOX all trumped it in buzz and demos, it was still #1 among total viewers, even as FOX closed the gap at the end of every season thanks to Idol-mania. It's also been the most consistent. Consider Fall 2005. The most talked about new shows were Commander-in-Chief and My Name is Earl, but you know what the biggest show from that season is now? A Mandy Patinkin-less Criminal Minds.

Still, even with this bliss, last season was the first season since 2001-2002 that the Eye had to settle for second, to a stable FOX that remained strong throughout the strike. Whether CBS can claim back that slot remains to be seen, so we take a look at its fall schedule for an idea...


08:00 p.m.The Big Bang Theory (Sept. 22)

08:30 p.m.How I Met Your Mother (Sept. 22)

09:00 p.m.Two and a Half Men (Sept. 22)

09:30 p.m.Worst Week (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 22)

10:00 p.m.CSI: Miami (Sept. 22)

One of only two two-hour comedy blocs left on TV, CBS Monday is also the only really successful one of the two, thanks almost entirely to Two and a Half Men being the only real sitcom hit left on television (The Office has the demo numbers of a sitcom hit, but not the total viewers), which usually helps out whatever comedy it’s leading into. In this case, CBS tries to boldly step into the scary, laugh-track free world of sitcoms with Worst Week. Otherwise, the night remains same-old, same-old (which is probably ultimately a good thing, since How I Met Your Mother factors into that same-old).

Predictions: All the returning shows should remain where they were viewers-wise last season (BBT/HIMYM, 8-9 million; 2.5 Men, 13-15 million; CSI: Miami, 14-16 million), so it’s all about Worst Week, really. I don’t see any real reason it shouldn’t perform as well as most 2.5Men lead-outs, even with the laugh-track-less-ness. So, about 10-12 million, though I doubt it’ll launch CBS into a major craze for the format.


08:00 p.m.NCIS (Sept. 23)

09:00 p.m.The Mentalist (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 23)

10:00 p.m.Without a Trace (NEW NIGHT) (Sept. 23)

Little known fact: NCIS was ranked fourteenth among all shows last season in total viewers, but most failed to notice that it was also the FIFTH most watched scripted show, behind only House, Desperate Housewives, CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. Basically, you have four of TV’s most talked about shows…and NCIS. Kinda weird. Still, it’ll actually be facing one of those shows (House) for at least the first part of the season, so it should be interesting to see how that battle goes down. As for The Mentalist, Simon Baker had success in this timeslot with The Guardian some seasons back, though it’s questionable how much appeal a truthful take on USA’s Psych will have. And Without a Trace at 10:00 is actually a pretty smart move for such a troubled timeslot. Maybe CBS will finally find success?

Predictions: Before the numbers for House this week I figured NCIS might have to settle for second in total viewers, but with House apparently down from last fall, NCIS might be able to pull off one of those weird CBS victories in total viewers, with 15-17 million over the course of the fall (Reaching 18 million on those House-less weeks). The Mentalist will be around 9-10 million, down from The Unit, and not that impressive for a network like CBS. And Without a Trace will probably lose viewers (It IS going into its seventh season), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it can win the timeslot from the even older SVU with about 12 million.


08:00 p.m.The New Adventures of Old Christine (NEW NIGHT/TIME) (Sept. 24)

08:30 p.m.Gary Unmarried (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 24)

09:00 p.m.Criminal Minds (Sept. 24)

10:00 p.m.CSI: NY (Sept. 24)

Once again CBS tries a comedy hour outside of Monday, but these very rarely work out. Some perform decently, but for a timeslot where none of the programs on any of the networks will probably top 10 million, it seems oddly competitive, which won’t help the two sitcoms. Criminal Minds and NY have been a strong duo, so keeping them here was a no-brainer.

Predictions: Both sitcoms should have adequate numbers, but only Old Christine will probably survive the season, as it’s only two full seasons away from syndication. Criminal Minds and CSI: NY do their thing, with 13-15 million and 12-14 million respectively.


08:00 p.m.Survivor: China (debuted Sept. 18)

09:00 p.m.CSI (Oct. 9)

10:00 p.m.Eleventh Hour (NEW SERIES (Oct. 9)

Even though it should continue to live a long, quiet life in primetime, I feel like this will be the last season anyone really cares about CSI. Kind of like how ER stopped being a big deal after Friends was canceled and NBC Thursdays fell apart, or how The Bachelor has gone from TV phenomenon to quiet Dancing with the Stars lead-out, once Grissom is off the show, CSI will become one of those shows that, four or five years from now your average show will be flipping through channels in primetime, come across Marg Helgenberger and some newbie solving a crime, and go “Hey, this is still on?” It’s something random to consider, but how else am I gonna fill this space, discussing Eleventh Hour’s unlikelihood of catching on?

Predictions: The final Grissom-lead episodes of CSI will probably also be the final ones to top 20 million viewers, and if marketed correctly, that final episode could be big (The scheduling would point to a January airing, depending on postponement of episodes and such). Survivor should stay in the 14 million viewer range, enough to win its hour for about the fifth season in a row. As for Eleventh Hour, its competition isn’t much, but like Shark it’s going to be nothing without CSI. I’m guessing sometime at midseason it’ll be replaced by the impressive summer performer Flashpoint.


08:00 p.m.Ghost Whisperer (Oct. 3)

09:00 p.m.The Ex-List (NEW SERIES) (Oct. 3)

10:00 p.m.Numb3rs (Oct. 3)

I still think CBS made a mistake canceling Close to Home two seasons ago, as that show along the two returning shows here made for a strong Friday night, and Moonlight didn’t get much more than a cult following, while this new show The Ex-List, part My Name is Earl, part How I Met Your Mother, stretched to an hour, doesn’t seem like a big long term hit.

Predictions: Now, that’s LONG TERM, not short term. I’m not ruling out the possibility of a surprisingly strong debut number, maybe over 10 million, but by the end of the season I don’t see it justifying a second season. So, maybe around 8 million when it’s all said and done. Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs stay in the 9-10 million and 10-12 million range respectively.


08:00 p.m.Crimetime Saturday

10:00 p.m.48 Hours (Sept. 27)

That this will probably be the strongest line-up on Saturday is kinda sad, but what works, works, I guess.

Predictions: 5-8 million for the line-up.


07:00 p.m.60 Minutes

08:00 p.m.The Amazing Race

09:00 p.m.Cold Case

10:00 p.m.The Unit (NEW NIGHT/TIME)

This has been a pretty consistent night for the last two seasons since the Sunday Night Movie was scrapped, with the exception of that final hour. But the first three work well enough that tinkering wasn’t really necessary (Though The Amazing Race always being preempted for Football can be peeving). I’m not sure The Unit will help things, but it was performing well enough last season to justify some sort of renewal.

Predictions: The first three hours should continue to do well enough (60 Minutes, 12-16 million; Amazing Race, 10-12 million; Cold Case, 13-16 million), though The Unit will probably have to settle for last in the demo and possibly viewers in its timeslot (9-11 million), so its fate depends on how strong CBS ultimately is at the end of the season, I guess.

Next: NBC hopes to prove it's not all about the Olympics and Football in the fall, with questionable results.

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