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“Steady” has been the new up for some time now, so CBS deserves some of the inevitable self-congratulation it will toss about for not losing any steam among adults 18-49 since it last met with media buyers en masse. (Though major credit there goes to having the 2019 Super Bowl.)
CBS brass also won’t have to deal with any debates about who has the America’s most-watched network. After engaging in something of a public pissing match with NBC over their the audience battle for the 2017-18 season, CBS is closing out this TV calendar with an easy advantage of nearly 2 million viewers. So when the network isn’t skirting around the seismic void left by ousted parent company chief Leslie Moonves at its May 15 presentation at Carnegie Hall, expect programming and sales execs shouting that from the proverbial hilltops and doing their damnedest to answer the following: What will possibly take the place of The Big Bang Theory?
Long the network’s flagship, ad sales centerpiece and biggest revenue driver, the celebrated sitcom will air its series finale just one night after the upfront — one that, people on stage and in the audience, are hoping will include the announcement of one or two viable heirs. (Oddsmakers should favor a pickup for pilot Carol’s Second Act, another sitcom vehicle for Everybody Loves Raymond star Patricia Heaton.) Big Bang spinoff Young Sheldon has been an unquestioned hit, but it’s not clear how it will perform without its parent series.
Speaking of renewals, CBS heads into its upfront month with remarkably few of those locked down — at least compared to years past, where the majority of the schedule has gotten the green light weeks or months earlier. Awaiting word are a slew of procedurals — Bull, SWAT, SEAL Team, MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0 among them — that used to seem like sure things.
America’s most cautious network might be on the verge of shaking things up.
Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR‘s scorecards for ABC, Fox, NBC and The CW and with all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.
Blue Bloods | The veteran cop drama quietly amasses one of the biggest audiences on TV, averaging almost 13 million viewers in its 10th season. Once star Tom Selleck renewed his deal with producers CBS TV Studios, the 10th season pickup was a fait accompli.
Bull | The Michael Weatherly starrer is returning for a fourth season after the series was among the bigger decisions CBS faced this season. As the network strives to clean up its reputation and culture following the ouster of CEO Leslie Moonves, news broke that CBS paid a sizable settlement to former Bull actress Eliza Dushku after she claimed Weatherly harassed her on set. Still, CBS continues to stick with the series — produced in-house — after news of the settlement went public, and Bull has continued to pull steady ratings.
Criminal Minds | The long-running cop drama will end with an abbreviated 15th season in 2019-20. Showrunner Erica Messer and stars Paget Brewster, Joe Mantegna and Kirsten Vangsness taped the final 10 episodes immediately after season 14, which saw the ABC Studios and CBS TV Studios co-production ratings decline nearly 15 percent in 2018-19 vs. the previous year.
FBI | The Dick Wolf procedural was a seamless fit in the network’s Tuesday lineup, retaining about 80 percent of its NCIS lead-in. Helping CBS turn the New York-set FBI into a franchise is the fact that the procedural — returning for season two — is a co-production between Wolf’s longtime home at Universal Television and CBS TV Studios, which makes it easier to turn a blind eye to the number of showrunners who have come and gone during season one. A spinoff, FBI: Most Wanted, is also in the pilot mix this season.
God Friended Me | The upbeat drama starring Brandon Micheal Hall and Joe Morton has provided an upgrade for the network on Sundays, outdrawing last season’s (scripted) occupants of the time period (Wisdom of the Crowd and Instinct) by about 6 percent while equaling its predecessors’ 18-49 numbers. The series, from Warner Bros. Television and super-producer Greg Berlanti, is one of the rare dramas that hail from outside studios that aren’t co-productions. It will be back for season two.
Hawaii Five-0 | Like Blue Bloods, veteran Five-0 draws a strong audience on Fridays, averaging better than 10 million viewers. The Peter Lenkov-run reboot returns for its 10th season after inking stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan to new deals. The series also performs well internationally and has a streaming deal in place with Netflix.
Magnum P.I. | The new take on the Tom Selleck drama — from reboot specialist Peter Lenkov (Hawaii Five-0, MacGyver) — wasn’t exactly a breakout hit. But the Jay Fernandez starrer did improve a weak spot on the schedule by double digits and has sold in some overseas markets. The drama, a co-production from CBS TV Studios and Universal TV, will be back for season two.
MacGyver | The third of Lenkov’s three reboots at the network lags a bit behind its Friday companions. Still, the Lucas Till starrer averages nearly 8 million viewers per week, is owned by CBS TV Studios and has a presence in a number of international markets given its instant name recognition. Onscreen, the series parted ways with co-star George Eads this season and 12 Monkeys favorite Terry Matalas has joined as showrunner as CBS looks to elevate the male-led procedural for season four.
Madam Secretary | Linear ratings aren’t great for the political procedural starring Tea Leoni. In fact, the CBS TV Studios drama is the network’s lowest-rated scripted series. But with sizable syndication and streaming deals in place, CBS found it easier to vote for a sixth-season renewal.
Man With a Plan | Just as Friends could always rely on Joey for a laugh, CBS looks at its Matt LeBlanc-led family comedy as a super utility player off its bench. The multicamera comedy from CBS TV Studios has helped stabilize underperforming time periods in each of its past two seasons. While the series doesn’t have a huge audience, it comes with a built-in star and is produced in-house, which was just enough to earn a fourth season.
Mom | With The Big Bang Theory ending with its current 12th season, the Chuck Lorre-produced multicamera comedy starring awards darling Allison Janney and Anna Faris will be the network’s longest-running half-hour. The reliably solid show earned a two-season pickup that will take it through 2020-21 and its eighth season overall after Janney and Faris inked rich new deals with producers Warner Bros. TV.
NCIS | TV’s most-watched show in the world will officially return for a 17th season — CBS’ current longest-running drama series — after leading man Mark Harmon renewed his deal with producers CBS TV Studios.
NCIS: Los Angeles | One of just a handful of series to match or better its 18-49 ratings this season, NCIS: LA remains a fan favorite, as do stars LL Cool J, Chris O’Donnell, Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah. What’s more, CBS is using the spinoff’s 10th season to stage a JAG reunion. In the meantime, speculation intensifies that NCIS: LA, a spinoff of JAG offshoot NCIS, could give birth to a new incarnation of JAG. Because CBS clearly (and smartly) loves its franchises. NCIS: L.A. will be back for an 11th season.
NCIS: New Orleans | While the Scott Bakula-led spinoff had begun to show its age in its fifth season — ratings have fallen more than 10 percent as it has proven less capable of succeeding without the NCIS flagship as its lead-in — the drama will return for a sixth run after a number of behind-the-scenes issues prompted the firings of former showrunner Brad Kern and executive producer Adam Targum.
The Neighborhood | The Cedric the Entertainer-fronted multicamera entry from Big Bang Theory grad Jim Reynolds is the best performer of CBS’ first-year comedies. After undergoing some recastings before its debut, the comedy co-starring Max Greenfield and Beth Behrs has improved the network’s Monday time slot in viewers by about 5 percent vs. last season and held steady in adults 18-49. The comedy, produced in-house by CBS TV Studios, will be back for a second season.
SEAL Team | David Boreanaz is keeping his hot streak going as the military drama from CBS TV Studios ranks as the Bones, Buffy and Angel grad’s fourth straight broadcast hit. While the show’s ratings have declined double-digits in its second season, it is owned in-house and boasts a star with international appeal, helped CBS re-enlist for a third season.
SWAT | The cop drama has a ratings profile virtually identical to that of SEAL Team — both procedurals clock in at a 1.5 among adults 18-49 and are within 100,000 viewers of one another. The Shawn Ryan-produced reboot starring network favorite Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) is now a co-production between Sony Pictures Television and CBS TV Studios, making it a bit easier to bring the series back for a third season.
Young Sheldon | No pressure here, but there are high expectations riding on The Big Bang Theory prequel, which earned an early two-season renewal. The pickup — taking it through seasons three and four — was an easy call, considering the single-camera comedy starring Iain Armitage and Zoe Perry will be the highest-rated returning comedy next season once its parent show leaves the scene. The series hails from Lorre and Warner Bros. TV.
Instinct | The second-year CIA drama starring Alan Cumming has the distinction of being broadcast’s first hourlong series with a gay leading character. After a midseason debut last year, CBS renewed the procedural from showrunner Michael Rauch for a second season, which debuted in June. The show’s ratings dropped by more than 30 percent in both total viewers and adults 18-49 compared to its summer run in 2018. Rauch shared news of the cancellation via Twitter.
The Code | The military-set legal drama created by Craig Sweeny and Craig Turk was picked up to series and subsequently recast its leads, with Mira Sorvino and Dave Annable replaced by Luke Mitchell and Dana Delany. The freshman drama — produced in-house — launched quietly in April to so-so ratings and will not return for a second season, Delany said.
The Red Line | The Ava DuVernay- and Greg Berlanti-produced racial drama starring Noah Wyle earned a late debut (April 28), but its creative team has been open about the potential to explore a second season, be it with the same cast or an anthology take. That won’t come to pass, as the Warner Bros. TV drama drew soft ratings for its eight episodes — aired in two-hour blocks over four straight Sundays — and was canceled. (CBS did bill The Red Line as a limited series.) “[The show] did not get picked up for a second season, so it will exist as an elegant novel,” co-showrunner Sunil Nayar said at the ATX Television Festival.
Murphy Brown | Easily one of the broadcast season’s bigger disappointments, the Candice Bergen-led reboot was never going to attract hordes of younger viewers, but it didn’t attract all that many of any age. The Warner Bros. TV-produced comedy drew the smallest audience in CBS’ Thursday comedy block in the fall. The multicamera comedy from creator Diane English and co-starring Jake McDormand as Bergen’s son wrapped its run after fulfilling its original 13-episode commitment. Sources noted that those close to the series were optimistic about doing additional episodes if the show worked in its return. That did not happen and CBS instead took a wait-and-see approach to how its pilots turn out before making a decision on a potential second season of the reboot (or its 12th overall). English, for her part, remained “optimistic” that there’s life left for Murphy and company. CBS disagreed and the revival was canceled after one season.
Life in Pieces | The comedy is ending after four seasons despite rumblings of a potential platform move. The fourth-year, single-camera family comedy from 20th Century Fox TV earned a very late-season return date (April 18). The cancellation is a bit of a surprise as the Modern Family-inspired comedy starring Colin Hanks, Betsy Brandt, James Brolin and Dianne Wiest was a season away from syndication for new owners Disney.
Fam | The midseason multicamera comedy created by Corinne Kingsbury starred Tone Bell and The Vampire Diaries fan favorite Nina Dobrev. The series never really caught on after getting off to a rocky start after showrunner Bob Kushell was fired after he allegedly used inappropriate language on the set. Despite a marketable star and being owned in-house (and hailing from prolific producer Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment), Fam finished the season as CBS’ second lowest-rated comedy.
Happy Together | File this under “big surprise”: After heavily courting star Damon Wayans Jr. and landing the always in-demand Happy Endings grad with one of last season’s biggest talent deals — it included a producing pact — the multicamera family comedy from EP Ben Winston (The Late Late Show) — and based loosely on his life — ranked as the lowest-rated CBS comedy of the 2018-19 season. The series also had the distinction of being the lone fall show on the network to not earn additional episodes.
The Big Bang Theory | The veteran Chuck Lorre nerdy comedy wraps its run in May after 12 seasons and signs off as TV’s longest-running multicam. What’s more, the series from Bill Prady, Steve Molaro and showrunner Steve Holland goes out on top as TV’s highest-rated comedy. While sources said Lorre and stars Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch all wanted to do at least one, maybe two, more seasons, it was Emmy-winner Parsons who was ready to wrap things up. (And yes, this show is ending, it was not canceled as CBS would have loved nothing more than for it to continue.)
Elementary | The Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu drama has been a cash cow for producers CBS TV Studios with foreign sales and a lucrative Netflix deal, but all good things must come to an end as the Sherlock Holmes-themed series will wrap its run with an abbreviated 13-episode seventh and final season.
All Rise | The legal drama, from writer Greg Spottiswood (Frontier), follows the lives of judges, prosecutors and public defenders as they work with bailiffs, clerks and cops to get justice for the people of L.A. amid a flawed legal system. Simone Missick and Wilson Bethel star in the Warner Bros. TV and CBS TV Studios co-production.
Bob Hearts Abishola | The multicamera comedy from writers Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky (Mike and Molly), Al Higgins and Gina Yashere stars Mike and Molly grad Billy Gardell as a middle-age businessman who falls for his nurse, a Nigerian immigrant. Folake Olowofoyeku and Christine Ebersole star in the Warner Bros. TV-produced comedy, which remained a front-runner for a series order all pilot season long after landing at CBS with a sizable penalty.
Broke | The multicamera comedy, from Jane the Virgin‘s Jennie Snyder Urman and writer Alex Herschlag (Will & Grace), follows a wealthy trust fund baby who is cut off by his father as he and his wife move into her estranged sister’s Reseda home, forcing the two siblings to reconnect. Jane the Virgin‘s Jaime Camil and CBS favorite Pauley Perrette star alongside Natasha Leggero, Izzy Diaz and Antonio Corbo. The series hails from CBS TV Studios.
Carol’s Second Act | Everybody Loves Raymond grad Patricia Heaton is officially returning to CBS (after taking a year off following The Middle‘s conclusion on ABC). Heaton stars in the multicamera comedy from Trophy Wife duo Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins as a mother who, after raising her two children and retiring from teaching, pursues her dream of becoming a doctor. Kyle MacLachlan co-stars in the CBS TV Studios comedy.
Evil | The drama marks the return of Robert and Michelle King to broadcast television following CBS’ The Good Wife. Westworld grad Katja Herbers stars — in a potential breakout role — alongside Luke Cage‘s Mike Colter and Aasif Mandvi and network favorite Michael Emmerson. The series is a psychological mystery that examines science vs. religion and the origins of evil. The series hails from CBS TV Studios, where the Kings are under an overall deal.
FBI: Most Wanted | The FBI spinoff gives Wolf three franchises across two broadcast networks. (He also has New York Undercover still in contention at ABC.) The spinoff stars Julian McMahon and Alana de la Garza and explores the Fugitive Task Force of the FBI. The series, like its flagship, is a co-production between Universal TV — where Wolf is based — and CBS TV Studios.
Tommy | Talk about a casting coup. CBS chief creative officer David Nevins personally recruited his Nurse Jackie star Edie Falco to topline the drama about L.A.’s first female chief of police. The awards season darling stars in the drama from Amblin TV and writer/showrunner Paul Attanasio (Bull).
The Unicorn | Converted from a multicamera comedy to CBS’ lone new single-camera effort, Walton Goggins (Justified) stars as a widower who, with the help of his friends and family, moves on following the most difficult year of his life, which includes being an ill-equipped but devoted single parent to his two daughters and re-entering the dating game to find out he’s a hot commodity. Rob Corddry and Michaela Watkins co-star in the CBS TV Studios comedy from Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment.
The network will return long-running news series 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. CBS’ flagship competition series Survivor will be back for its 39th and 40th cycles, and season 32 of The Amazing Race has already finished filming. Big Brother will also return in summer 2020 for its 22nd season. Newcomers The World’s Best and Million Dollar Mile have yet to learn their futures, and Celebrity Big Brother is awaiting word on a third run. Summer newcomer Love Island will return in 2020. Unscripted shows run on a different schedule than that of scripted series, so all renewals may not be decided until after the upfronts.
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