TV Upfronts: CBS' Fall Schedule Targets a Must-See TV Thursday (Analysis)

Mom Anna Faris Episodic - H 2013

Mom Anna Faris Episodic - H 2013

Heading into the upfront market with the luxury of being number one in both the targeted adults 18-49 and total viewers, there are understandably few changes to the CBS schedule. But the network is making strategic moves in comedy, expanding Thursday to a two-hour block and adding two single camera efforts.

Upping its comedy order after only launching the ill-fated Partners last season, CBS has five new half-hour series heading to the schedule -- and four of them get a fall launch pad. ABC, Fox and NBC all announced plans for their latest efforts to make comedy inroads on Tuesdays and Fridays, but CBS is instead growing Thursday. The network expands broadcast TV's most successful comedic pairing of The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men to a full two-hour block, sandwiching two high-profile freshman in the middle.

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The Big Bang Theory continues to anchor the half-hour it re-launched in 2011, leading into Greg Garcia multi-cam effort The Millers. Fronted by Will Arnett, the laugher moves into the perhaps the biggest departure for CBS. Single camera workplace comedy The Crazy Ones, with the buzzy cast fronted by Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar, takes the network into a half-hour arena that has worked much better for its competitors.

The last CBS single camera comedies to even make it to air were Welcome to The Captain and Worst Week in 2008 -- and neither produced a complete season. The difference between those two and these new orders is star power. And while the second single cam, Monday's We Are Men, does not have a name as big as Williams', star Tony Shalhoub (Monk) carries major recognition with the CBS audience.

We Are Men gets one of the networks' stronger leads in How I Met Your Mother at 8:30 p.m. on Mondays. (Barring the Partners debacle, it's been a consistent springboard, launching Big Bang, Mike & Molly and 2 Broke Girls.) Mother, which wavers in ratings, still generates big numbers when it counts. And anticipation around the final season should serve Men well. 2 Broke Girls, which saw one of the biggest sophomore ratings slumps this season, generally wins the night among scripted performers and seems tonally consistent with latest Chuck Lorre multi cam effort Mom -- the night's other debut.

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Mike & Molly is a bit of a loser in this scenario. The 22-episode renewal for the Melissa McCarthy starrer does not have any place on the schedule, at least while all of the new efforts are airing. Two and a Half Men gets something of a short end of the stick as well, as it will no doubt lose some steam without the Big Bang boost. But as it enters its very pricey 11th season, the comedy has a track record of bringing an audience wherever it goes. And that should prove helpful as CBS tries to emulate the NBC Thursday of yore with four comedies leading into the sophomore run of Elementary.  

Elsewhere on the drama front, CBS joins ABC in going after Fox's cable-inspired model for The Following. Hostages and Intelligence, the network's sole new dramas, enter the schedule on Monday night at 10 p.m. Hostages, fronted by Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott, is set to air its entire shorter run through January. Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberger vehicle Intelligence takes the baton with a similar run during the second half of the season.

The rest of the network's drama stable, all steady veterans, see little movement. Person of Interest going to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. to accommodate Thursday's comedy growth serves the night well. Lead-ins NCIS and NCIS: LA are the only two dramas' on the network with a bigger audience. And Hawaii Five-0, unlikely to grow any more in its old Monday digs, is a natural choice to fill Friday's CSI: NY vacancy -- though the hour easily could have gone to similarly-rated The Good Wife or The Mentalist.

That pair, along with Sunday standby 60 Minutes and reality veteran The Amazing Race, will continue to make up one of the network's two unaltered evenings -- where CBS realizes no amount of tinkering or additions make sense in the face of NBC's unapproachable Sunday Night Football.