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CBS has picked up to series three of its four pilots, handing out formal orders to the Kathy Bates-led Matlock reboot, The Good Fight spinoff Elsbeth starring Carrie Preston, and the father-son comedy starring Damon Wayans and Damon Wayans Jr. that is now titled Poppa’s House.
Matlock, Elsbeth and Poppa’s House are the first scripted series orders at CBS for new entertainment president Amy Reisenbach. The former head of current programming replaced Kelly Kahl atop the network last year. Her tenure at the network goes back to 2005, when she was a manager in the current programming department, meaning her fingerprints are already all over CBS’ current schedule.
CBS, like other broadcast networks, drastically reduced the volume of pilot orders this year. The network developed only two dramas (Elsbeth and Matlock) and a pair of comedies (Jumpstart, House). All four are fully owned by CBS Studios as networks continue to prioritize owning more of their pricey originals in an effort to control costs as media companies face a number of economic headwinds as well as possible fallout from the Writers Guild’s strike against studios.
It’s unclear how the current WGA strike will impact the newly ordered series as scribes across the country have put their pens down to hit the picket line as they seek wage increases, protections against the use of mini-rooms and AI and more in their ongoing labor strife with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios and streamers. CBS is expected to announce its fall schedule on Wednesday.
CBS already has Justin Hartley (This Is Us) drama Tracker on tap for the 2023-24 broadcast season, giving it three new dramas and one new comedy. That series was developed during Pilot Season 2022 and ordered to series in December (when it was known as The Never Game). These will help fill the voids created by the cancellations of NCIS: Los Angeles, East New York and True Lies. CBS also has the 13-episode final season of SWAT in store for 2023-24.
Elsbeth stars Carrie Preston as she continues on with her role as Elsbeth Tascioni from The Good Wife and its spinoff, The Good Fight. The series becomes the third in the Good-verse from creators and showrunners Robert and Michelle King. The series is produced in-house via the Kings’ rich overall deal with CBS Studios. Wendell Pierce and Carra Patterson co-star in the series. Robert King directed the pilot. The show comes to CBS proper after The Good Fight was exclusive to Paramount+. Liz Glotzer and Jonathan Tolins also exec produce, with the latter serving as showrunner.
Matlock is considered a reboot of the former NBC and ABC procedural and hails from Jane the Virgin creator Jennie Snyder Urman via her overall deal with CBS Studios. Kathy Bates stars as septuagenarian Madeline Matlock, who rejoins the work force at a prestigious law firm. The original Matlock, created by Dean Hargrove and starring Andy Griffith, aired for nine seasons from 1986-95, first on NBC before moving to ABC for its final three. The drama, which remains popular in syndication, is owned by Viacom Productions. Rights to the series recently reverted to Paramount Global following the re-merger of CBS and Viacom. CBS, it’s worth noting, aired spinoff Jake and the Fatman for eight seasons from 1987-92. Diagnosis: Murder was also a spinoff of Jake and the Fatman that aired for eight seasons on CBS from 1991-2002 (including five made-for-TV movies). Jason Ritter co-stars.
Poppa’s House, a multicamera comedy, revolves around a legendary talk radio host and happily divorced “Poppa” (Damon Wayans) who has his point of view challenged at work when a new female co-host (Essence Atkins) is hired, and at home where he finds himself still parenting his adult son (Damon Wayans Jr.), a brilliant dreamer who is trying to pursue his passion while being a responsible father and husband. Last Man Standing grad Kevin Hency serves as showrunner on the series that is exec produced by both Wayans.
Tuesday’s new series additions come a day after CBS made decisions on its remaining bubble shows that included reversing its SWAT cancellation and axing first-year dramas True Lies and East New York. All of the network’s current schedule, save for those two dramas as well as NCIS: Los Angeles (which is ending with season 14), will return. Of the 15 returning shows, CBS either fully or partially owns all but two as Warner Bros. TV does not do co-productions on shows from comedy kingpin Chuck Lorre (Bob Hearts Abishola, Young Sheldon).
As broadcast ratings continue to evaporate, networks are under increased pressure to change the economic model to help keep veteran shows on the air. The cast and creatives on CBS’ Blue Bloods — which is fully owned by CBS parent Paramount Global — took a 25 percent salary cut to get a renewal, while Bob Hearts Abishola reduced its series regular cast to two, with all save for the stars behind Bob and Abishola reduced to recurring in a bid to create a better financial model for the series. SWAT, a co-production between Sony and CBS Studios, also faced economic changes as CBS reversed its cancellation decision after a mere three days.
Keep up with all the new broadcast series orders, renewals and cancellations with THR’s handy scorecard.
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