Eye looks down at competition

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Confident CBS executives took to the Carnegie Hall stage Wednesday with an upbeat story of audience growth as the network attempted to paint a stark contrast to its rivals.

As the only broadcaster to improve its viewership measurements this season, CBS emphasized its stability with a fall lineup featuring another traditional sitcom and three new dramas with genres that seem symmetrically calibrated to continue giving viewers a traditional range of procedural programming: cops, doctors and lawyers.

"CBS can offer something the other guys can't: lots of plus signs and up arrows," CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves told advertisers. "We're the only network showing growth in any category. 'Flat' is not the new 'up,' despite what you have heard."

Moonves and other CBS execs came down particularly hard on NBC for its decision to replace scripted programming with a Jay Leno talk show at 10 p.m. in the fall.

"There's a big difference between the broadcast model being broken and not being able to find any new hit shows for years," Moonves said. "We don't make Page Six as much as the other guys, but we make the Nielsen top 10 a lot more."

CBS criticized the Leno move while seeking to reap its benefits. "There will be more share available at 10 p.m. for those of us who put on great dramas," Moonves said during a news conference earlier in the day.

Exhibit A: CBS is moving its breakout hit "The Mentalist" at 10 p.m. Thursdays, giving the show a "CSI" lead-in.

"We saw an opportunity to take a strong show and make it a stronger show," CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl said.

CBS TV Studios-produced drama "Medium" landed on CBS a day after it was canceled by NBC. It will be sandwiched between the paranormal drama "Ghost Whisperer" and the crime drama "Numbers" on Friday.

"If 'Ghost Whisperer' and 'Numbers' had an offspring, it would be 'Medium,' " CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said of the Patricia Arquette starrer, a crime procedural with paranormal elements.

On Tuesdays, the network will pair "NCIS" with the "NCIS" spinoff, which will be called "NCIS: Los Angeles," following the pattern of city-based spinoff titles established by "CSI."

"It's the same brand of humor; it's the same sensibility," Tassler said. "It's got a built-in audience."

Kahl pointed out that "NCIS: Los Angeles" will be the only scripted series in the time period that launched "Mentalist."

"If you don't want to watch reality, we're the only game in town there," he said.

Rounding out the new Tuesday lineup at 10 p.m. is the new Julianna Margulies legal drama "The Good Wife."

On Monday, CBS is going with a Chuck Lorre block. After experimenting with "The Big Bang Theory" following "Two and a Half Men" this season, the network is making the "Big Bang" shift to 9:30 p.m. permanent, leaving "How I Met Your Mother" to open the night, leading into the new "Accidentally on Purpose."

"We're trying to take 'Big Bang' from a top 20 show to a top 10 show," Kahl said. "We feel confident we can blow this show up."

Medical show "Three Rivers," with former "Moonlight" star Alex O'Loughlin, will run at 9 p.m. Sundays, with "Cold Case" shifted to 10 p.m.

The network's other new medical drama, Jerry Bruckheimer's "Miami Trauma," will launch in midseason. Also slotted there: Canadian drama "The Bridge" and unscripted series "Arranged Marriage" and "Undercover Boss."

"It's a cohesive schedule with few changes," Campbell Mithun ad buyer John Rash said. "The addition of 'Medium' on Fridays and 'Big Bang' going after 'Two and a Half Men' on Mondays will hopefully help solidify those nights."

The only broadcast network to grow this season, CBS canceled veterans "Without a Trace" and "The Unit." The cancellations were reflective of CBS' overall strength this season; both were fairly solid performers that rivals would likely have found a way to keep.

"We want to continue to get younger; we think the schedule reflects that," Tassler said, referring to actors such as LL Cool J from the "NCIS" spinoff. (partialdiff)
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