May 18, 2011 12:36pm PT by Tim Goodman
The CBS Fall Schedule: So Many Hits, It Needs to Revive Saturdays
I love CBS. Honestly, I do. I don't DVR a whole lot of its shows, but I've been impressed by its single-minded vision and determination ever since Leslie Moonves took over in troubled times and launched a plan to make the network relevant and dominant even if nobody thought its shows were young and hip.
Since that time, what has CBS done? Mechanically crushed people year in and year out, that's what. The well-oiled gears and pistons and deadly steel-ramming mechanisms lay waste to a lot of shows. It hasn't been able to win the No. 1 slot in the coveted demo, but it has a stranglehold on total viewers, which CBS has been able to sell back to advertisers rather effectively. You can make all the "old" jokes you want, but CBS prints money on its shows. And every season, it announces a new schedule built from strength.
The network has dumped (thankfully) $#*! My Dad Says, The Defenders, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and Mad Love (which I watched and liked). Some networks wished they had the viewers those shows did, quality be damned. This season, CBS is launching four dramas and two sitcoms, with another two possible later in the season. And in one of those smile-inducing moments, it decided to put fresh episodes of the comedy Rules of Engagement on Saturday nights at 8.
You remember Saturday night, right? You might have whistled by it one night. Total graveyard. Spooky in its all-encompassing hollowness, its ghost-town evacuation feel. But CBS has too many of what it considers good shows (and hits and moneymakers) that it needs more real estate.
Now, the cynical among you will no doubt suggest that Rules of Engagement might have been held until midseason or otherwise forgotten as usual had it not been so close to its syndication possibilities. And you may be right. But the motives are not important. CBS is trying to breathe life into Saturday nights with fresh episodes, not reruns. Imagine this: It works. I'm not saying it will, but if any network could do what others say is impossible, that network is CBS. It could put eyes on Saturday night. That's an unheard-of idea these days. But no broadcast network understands its audience as well as CBS. Others might look at the Rules decision as cynical, but if CBS ever breathes life into Saturday nights -- one of the most coveted nights on television in Ye Olden Days -- then it will spill more money on the way to the bank than others churn out in a good quarter.
So, the move might be an afterthought, but one thing not to doubt is CBS' scheduling prowess. And it has proved, with Two and a Half Men and the ongoing Charlie Sheen Media Hijacking, to be impervious to anyone's suggestions, criticisms or predictions. The network waited it out, signed Ashton Kutcher in a suspiciously/impressively timely manner before the upfronts and will, to your everlasting gall, probably make the whole thing work. Ka-ching.
Now, on to that schedule, which is attempting to add strength to strength:
Monday: New sitcom Two Broke Girls (from Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings) obviously would have no place on sister network the CW, so it settles in comfortably at 8:30 p.m. after How I Met Your Mother and before Two and a Half Men. Mike & Molly follows at 9:30 p.m. (sending shivers of disbelief down a critic's back), and Hawaii Five-O finishes the night at 10. Will the newbie work? It's impossible to know. And even if it's not very good, it will probably be impossible to kill (see: Mike & Molly).
Tuesday: NCIS at 8, NCIS: Los Angeles at 9 and new drama Unforgettable at 10. The rookie show stars Poppy Montgomery, a familiar face at CBS after starring on Without a Trace from 2002 to 2009. What to say here other than, "You do know that roughly 90 percent of CBS procedurals work, right?" Something like that.
Wednesday: Survivor: South Pacific at 8, Criminal Minds at 9 and CSI at 10. That's a new home for CSI, but if you doubt its fans won't follow, you're not paying attention to the CBS fan base.
Thursday: The Big Bang Theory at 8, freshman sitcom How to Be a Gentleman (David Hornsby, Kevin Dillon and Dave Foley) at 8:30, J.J. Abrams' (and Jonathan Nolan's) new drama Person of Interest at 9 and The Mentalist at 10. First off, that's fine and safe scheduling for Gentleman, and Abrams' series should draw a lot of interest (though if it doesn't and Gentleman loses a lot of BBT lead-out, which it probably will, then potential problems arise).
Friday: New drama A Gifted Man kicks off the night at 8, followed by CSI: NY at 9 and Blue Bloods at 10. If there's anything suspect in the scheduling, this might be the night. An unproven drama kicks it off, a show that struggled (by CBS standards) is in the middle and a sophomore series getting tweaked by new showrunners closes it out. Should be interesting.
Saturday: The aforementioned Rules starts at 8 and leads into rotating comedy reruns at 8:30, then rotating crime procedural reruns arrive at 9 and 48 Hours Mystery at 10. Again, I like it. And I hope it works.
Sunday: 60 minutes at 7 and The Amazing Race at 8 are proven, while the shift of The Good Wife to Sundays at 9 is the real surprise, though it makes a lot of sense. Will it have trouble beating Desperate Housewives on ABC? Maybe, but my money is on Good Wife. CSI: Miami caps the night at 10.
Sexy? Not so much. Strong? As ever.