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Upfronts 2012: Leslie Moonves to Jimmy Kimmel: 'Freshen Up' Your Upfront Material

Leslie Moonves
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Leslie Moonves

CBS also touts "super comedy" Thursday and might pick up more new comedies.

The schedule moves at CBS including moving Two and a Half Men to Thursdays and The Mentalist to 10 p.m. Sundays are part of a network strategy to achieve flow across the schedule and continue to grow returning shows, according to network executives.

"We're focused on the best schedule," CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said during the network's annual upfront press breakfast Wednesday.

CBS picked up four new series for fall: the Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary, Greg Walker and Nicholas Pileggi's Vegas, legal drama Made in Jersey and the David Kohan and Max Mutchnick comedy Partners. (Midseason series include drama Golden Boy, comedy Friend Me and unscripted The Job. Undercover Boss also will return in midseason.) Tassler said she's still considering some of the network's five comedy pilots in development and that a decision on the fate of Rules of Engagement has yet to be made.

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In shifting Men to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays after The Big Bang Theory, the network is creating a "super comedy hour," says Kelly Kahl, senior executive vp primetime.

The J.J. Abrams-Jonathan Nolan sophomore drama Person of Interest will get the 9 p.m. slot and a boost from that "super" block, followed by Elementary at 10 p.m. The update of the classic mystery starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as his loyal sidekick Dr. Watson will go up against Scandal on ABC and Rock Center With Brian Williams on NBC.

"If you look at the competition [Thursday at 10], this looks pretty good for us," Kahl said. "There's no reason we can't dominate at 10 o'clock."

Kahl and Tassler brushed off the notion that Men was being jettisoned from Mondays, where it has aired since it premiered nearly a decade ago, because it could be getting long in the tooth.

"I think it's a reflection of our confidence in that show" that we're asking it to help Person of Interest, said Kahl.

Men stars Jon Cryer, Ashton Kutcher and Angus T. Jones recently closed one-year deals. And Tassler said nothing should be read into the fact that this takes the show only through a 10th season. Tassler was noncommittal when asked if the Warner Bros.-produced Chuck Lorre comedy might be done after next season.

"We just got an additional year from everybody, and we've got a very happy cast," said Tassler.

Sophomore comedy 2 Broke Girls will inherit Men's 9 p.m. Monday slot. And freshman laugher Partners will get the post-How I Met Your Mother slot at 8:30 p.m. The CBS lineup will face dueling competition shows The Voice on NBC and Dancing With the Stars on ABC.

"We like to [put] shows that are on their way up into key time periods," said Kahl of Broke Girls. "We don't stop trying to grow the shows. No show goes unprotected, no show has to fend for itself. These are things the other guys say but we actually do."

And Tassler stressed that CBS will continue to produce 22 episodes of scripted series rather than follow a so-called cable model with shorter episode orders, a strategy that has gathered steam on broadcast networks.

"People keep asking me, 'Why don't you want to make room on your schedule?' It's because our shows are hits," said Tassler. "We have one goal, and that is just to continue making hit TV shows. We don't get confused, we don't get sidetracked. That's our goal every single year."

And to her point, CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves, whose opening remarks disputed Jimmy Kimmel's assertion in his ABC upfront comedy routine that CBS viewers "make 18 to 49 trips to the bathroom."

"I'm a big fan of Jimmy Kimmel," said Moonves. "But somebody should tell him that CBS is so far ahead of ABC in 18-49 ... he should freshen up that joke."

Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com
Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie