CBS returns to crime, comedy roots

'Christine' to launch expanded Monday sitcom block

Crime and comedy are coming back in full force to CBS' schedule next season as the network re-embraces the genres that have performed best for it in recent years.

After taking a creative detour in the fall with outside-the-box concepts such as singing gamblers and vampire detectives, CBS is adding new crime procedurals and opening up another night of comedy.

As expected, CBS will expand its successful Monday night sitcom lineup to Wednesdays. "The New Adventures of Old Christine," which the network renewed at the last minute on Tuesday, will launch the block. "Christine" is followed by newcomer "Project Gary," about a middle-class father who is played by Jay Mohr.

The network unveiled the schedule to reporters at its New York offices Wednesday morning.

"We really wanted to focus on comedy, and we had the goods to it this year," said CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler. "We've been looking to expand, to build out to another night. We have two of highest-testing new comedies we've had in years."

The network will also add newcomer "Worst Week," about an engaged couple, to its Monday night lineup, giving the show a lead-in from its top-rated comedy "Two and a Half Men." Unlike the rest of the Monday night lineup, "Week" is shot with a single-camera.

"There's no better place to launch a comedy on television than behind the No. 1 comedy on television," CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl said. "We want to give the new shows the best possible position to succeed."

The network's signature crime dramas will also have more company next season, though Tassler emphasized the procedurals will be more focused on character.

"We do very well with our procedurals, but we've added more character to them," Tassler said.

The dramas also will emphasize stronger female characters, with the female-driven "The Ex List" replacing "Moonlight" on Fridays and drama "The Unit" adding a new female character.

"Women drive network television," Tassler said. "Women watch our procedurals and comedies and we wanted to build on that. We've added more female faces to the network."

During the development processes, Tassler noted, the network looked at characters written as men and tried to see if they could be rewritten as women.

"Ex-List" (formerly "Mythological Ex") stars Elizabeth Reaser as a woman told she's going to get married in a year to a man she's already met, then goes about contacting all her former boyfriends.

When asked how the show will last more than one season if her wedding is in one year, Tassler said "fortunes change."

"Ex List," "Worst Week" and "Eleventh Hour" are based on foreign formats, continuing a recent trend for networks to purchase pre-tested concepts.

The dramas also include the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "Eleventh Hour," about a science professor who helps solve crimes. "Hour" has been given CBS' strongest lead-in, Bruckheimer's own "CSI," and will air Thursdays at 10 p.m.

Former time slot occupant "Without a Trace" will shift to Tuesdays at 10 p.m., a period that's proved tricky for the network to fill in recent years. Kahl said "Trace" always improves its time period and the network considers it a utility player that can help buck up the spot.

Another new procedural is "The Mentalist," starring Simon Baker, about a deceptive celebrity psychic who puts his observational skills to better use working for law enforcement.

"The Mentalist" takes over Tuesdays at 9 p.m., former home to "The Unit," which is shifting to Sundays at 10 p.m.

As expected, the serialized "Harper's Island," about a group of friends terrorized on an island off the Seattle coast, is set for midseason. Tassler described it as a cross between "10 Little Indians" and "Scream."

Regarding the cancellation of fan favorite "Moonlight," Tassler said the fall-off suffered by "Jericho" was a factor in the show's decision.

"We had a very passionate fan base, and that's a good thing, but we had to make some tough calls," she said.

Tassler also nixed the idea of "Moonlight" getting an afterlife on CBS Corp. sister network the CW.

Absent from the fall schedule were any new unscripted shows, though veteran reality shows "The Amazing Race" and "Survivor" will return, with the latter airing in high definition for the first time. Tassler noted the network is currently shooting Mark Burnett's game show "Jingles," which could serve as a replacement.

After the writers strike, CBS was the first network to return to the air and reaped ratings dividends as a result.

"We met on a weekly basis during the strike to make sure we would be ready on Day One to get back into production as quickly as we can," said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corp. "We hit the ground running, we got our schedule back right away, our ratings came back."

Moonves said his team saw about 18 pieces of material for fall, some of which were 20-minute presentations. Given the network's success coming out of the gate quickly post-strike, CBS is now mulling the possibility of launching some shows before the traditional late September premiere week.

"We're leaving the door open to going early," Tassler said.

Here's the lineup:

8-8:30 p.m. The Big Bang Theory
8:30-9 p.m. How I Met Your Mother
9:-9:30 p.m. Two and a Half Men
9:30-10 p.m. Worst Week (new)
10-11 p.m. CSI: Miami

8-9:00 p.m. NCIS
9-10 p.m. The Mentalist (new)
10-11 p.m. Without a Trace

8-8:30 p.m. The New Adventures of Old Christine
8:30–9 p.m. Project Gary (new)
9-10 p.m. Criminal Minds
10-11 p.m. CSI: NY

8-9 p.m. Survivor
9-10 p.m. CSI
10-11 p.m. Eleventh Hour (new)

8-9 p.m. Ghost Whisperer
9-10 p.m. The Ex-List (new)
10-11 p.m. Numbers

8-9 p.m. Crimetime Saturday
9-10 p.m. Crimetime Saturday
10-11 p.m. 48 Hours: Mystery

7-8 p.m. 60 Minutes
8-9 p.m. The Amazing Race
9-10 p.m. Cold Case
10-11 p.m. The Unit