CBS, the country’s most popular TV network, will add four new comedies to its primetime schedule next season on Monday and Thursday nights, cast with the likes of Robin Williams and Will Arnett, and two new dramas that will share the Monday 10 p.m. timeslot.
“We’re the center of the universe,” CBS CEO Les Moonves crowed Wednesday morning at his network’s traditional Broadcast Upfront Week morning news conference to unveil its new lineup.
CBS is doing very little changing to its schedule, compared to its broadcast competitors, who announced their new plans earlier in the week. CBS is celebrating its inevitable first place finish this season, for the 10th time in the past 11 TV seasons — 4 million viewers ahead of its closest competitor. The network also will finish first among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers who are the industry’s ad sales currency, for the first time since the 1991-92 season.
(Video: A look at CBS’s new series.)
Monday nights, “How I Met Your Mother” heads into its final season at 8 p.m, and “2 Broke Girls” returns at 9. Hammocked between is new “We Are Men,” which CBS Entertainment programming chief Nina Tassler said had been pitched to the network in previous seasons but the network had resisted because it was a single-camera comedy. It stars Chris Smith as the youngest and most recent addition to a group of recently-divorced guys (Tony Shalhoub, Jerry O’Connell, Kal Penn) living in a short-term apartment rental building, having been ditched at the altar.
Chuck Lorre’s latest CBS comedy, “Mom” moves in at 9:30 p.m.; it stars Anna Faris as a newly sober single mom working as a waitress in northern California wine country.
At 10 on Mondays, CBS will debut two new dramas. First, “Hostages” is a serialized suspense thriller from Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Toni Collette as a surgeon who supposed to operate on the president, only she and her dysfunctional family are kidnapped the previous night by rogue FBI agent Dylan McDermott, who orders her to assassinate POTUS.
All 15 episodes of this highly serialized thriller will run virtually without repeats in the mix, from the start of the season into January.
After that, “Intelligence” premieres, starring Josh Holloway as an intelligence operative who has a microchip in his brain, which gives him free internet, WiFi, telephone, and satellite data. He can hack into any data center and access key intel in the fight to protect the US from its enemies. It has a 13-episode order.
It’s been more than 30 years since country’s three most watched dramas all aired on the same network on the same night — the 1981-82 season and the shows were “Dukes of Hazzard,” “Dallas,” and “Falcon Crest.”
In the fall, it’ll be “NCIS, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” and “Person of Interest” on CBS’s Tuesday night. “PoI” has been moved to 10 p.m. that night after research revealed the audience that loves “PoI” cross-indexes with the NCIS franchise “at a rate I’ve never seen before,” explained CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl, who said he liked CBS’s chances against the competition on the night, even against ABC’s entirely new Tuesday lineup — because “as we know, that almost always works,” Kahl snarked.
CBS’s Wednesday is returning intact, including “Criminal Minds” at 9 p.m. which, Kahl noted, snags about 5 million more viewers than NBC’s timeslot competitor Law & Order: SVU.”
Thursday, Kahl said he’s not sure people realize how big “The Big Bang Theory” has become, noting that the difference between the size of the “BB” and NBC’s timeperiod competitor for fall, “Parks & Rec,” would be a Top-10 show.
Tassler noted “BB’s” repeats are the No. 1 rated comedy — on cable.
“Two and a Half Men” has been pushed to 9:30 that night and, in between the two Lorre sitcoms CBS has scheduled two new comedies.
“The Millers, stars Will Arnett as an actor who has finally decided to join the CBS multi-cam comedy business that other networks, and some TV critics, mock, rather than starring in another single cam comedy all the hip kids like but which get canceled quick, owing to hip kids not being a large enough demographic group to sustain a broadcast TV series. Greg Garcia (“Raising Hope,” “My Name is Earl”) came to a similar conclusion and is the creator of the show, in which Arnett plays a recently divorced local roving news reporter whose mother (Margo Martindale) moves in when Dad (Beau Bridges) leaves her.
There are only one or two actors in Hollywood who can launch a new TV series that’s been slapped in the critical 9 p.m. tentpole timeslot, Kahl explained to reporters in the room. Robin Williams is one of them. He’s the star of CBS’s new Thursday 9 p.m. single-camera comedy (keeping track? That’s two on the schedule ) “The Crazy Ones,” playing a very successful advertising exec. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays his daughter.
(“The Crazy Ones” is from David E. Kelley and is a stroke of genius, if the pilot trailer is any indication. The pilot episode is all about coming up with an ad campaign for MacDonalds, and getting Kelly Clarkson to sing the McDonalds jingle. And she does.
In success, this show could make the product placement on “Mad Men” look like the minor leagues.
Williams, who was saved for last at CBS’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall on Thursday afternoon, likened it to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, “but with more agents and a little less [heinie]-sniffing.” He noted it’s been 30 years since he was on TV -- and back then the upfronts were much simpler, “just a bunch of executives and a mound of cocaine.”
Then he played all the parts in a bit of improv in which network suits pitched “Hello Larry” and “Super Train” and Mork & Mindy” to enthusiastic response from stoned ad execs. Advertisers lapped it up.)
“Elementary” gets the coveted Thursday 10 p.m. timeslot, where it’s competition will be NBC’s “Parenthood” and ABC’s “Scandal.” The CBS Sherlock Holmes update is this season’s most watched new series, Kahl noted, adding he expects it to get more sampling on its new night.
Friday starts at 8 with reality series “Undercover Boss,” which Kahl predicted would do just fine against its new NBC reality series time period competitor, Gordon Ramsay’s “Junior Masterchef” — or, as it’s known around CBS, “Kids with Knives.”
Saturday Rerun Theatre is not unique to CBS — it has just branded it more cleverly: 8-9 p.m. is “Comedytime Saturday,” 9-10 p.m. is ‘Crimetime Saturday,” and 10 p.m. is “48 Hours.”
Sunday, CBS’s “Prestige Night,” Kahl explained, is returning intact.
CBS execs discussed just two midseason series: drama “Reckless,” a sultry legal drama Tassler called “Body Heat”-esque, and comedy “Friends with Better Lives,” about six friends at different stages in their lives.
Being the last of the major broadcasters to present next season’s primetime lineup to advertisers during the week, CBS suits got to comment on the others’ strategy and presentations.
“We’re very flattered Jimmy Kimmel called us ‘smug mother [expletives] – that means we’re winning,” Moonves said to titters from the breakfast crowd. He commended ABC for having kept Kimmel up on stage “as long as you can,” adding that a network that spends a lot of time talking about multi-platform (as ABC execs had done the previous afternoon, and NBC and Fox did on Monday) doesn’t want to talk about its ratings.
CBS’s scheduling guru Kelly Kahl had a slightly different take on Kimmel’s crack about CBS: “We’re not smug…we’re hungry. We want to win.
After unveiling CBS’s new lineup, Tassler took questions from press at the breakfast. This is always fraught with danger.
The “Beverly Hills Cop” re-boot, which had Eddie Murphy attached, did not get picked up because the network had limited shelf space and “these were the shows we chose,” Tassler explained patiently, in response to a reporter who wondered how CBS could pass on a series with that pedigree.
Lorre comedy “Mike & Molly” is on the bench, with a 22 episode order, even though Melissa McCarthy has a new movie coming out this summer, because McCarthy is a big enough star that her popularity transcends a single new-movie launch, Tassler explained when asked why CBS hadn’t put McCarthy’s show on in the fall to take advantage of the movie release.
There are more single-camera comedies on CBS this fall — two, remember — because, while CBS developed about the same number it had in the recent past, this year’s were better, she said, in response to a question about the two.
Another reporter wondered if Williams’ comedy was called “The Crazy Ones” because his character is “crazy — or bi-polar.” Tassler did not hit the reporter on the head with a blunt object, demonstrating a professionalism and self-control we’ve come to expect in a Team Leslie member.
The title was chosen because, in this cluttered TV universe, a program name that breaks out and is easily remembered is a good idea, Tassler explained politely, though she seemed to be becoming slightly frayed around the edges.
The difference between CBS’s “The Good Wife” and, say, Fox’s “The Following” is that “The Following” is a heavily serialized serial killer thriller — and ‘The Good Wife’ is “a legal show,” Tassler answered, when one reporter said the creators of “The Good Wife” had told them they were exhausted and “they sound like they really don’t want to do 22” episodes any more.” Other reporters at the breakfast began to make Cry Me A River noises.
Some CBS’s series make even more episodes per season than do the producers of “The Good Wife,” Tassler said, adding that viewers of CBS series tend to want to see as many original episodes as possible.
But, when a reporter asked Tassler to take “a trip down Memory Lane” and reveal what was the moment she most regretted this current TV season – you know, the one she’s winning for her network among 18-to-49 year olds for the first time in more than a decade, she responded briskly that it was like asking a woman at her Bat Mitzvah “who did you leave out of your speech — who didn’t you thank?”
Meanwhile, later in the day, David Letterman made a rare upfront presentation appearance at CBS’s Carnegie Hall clambake — but did not announce he was retiring, as some seemed to fear when they saw him walking out on stage.
He did, however, hug Moonves. For a very, very long time.
I’m honored to be here for your pledge drive,” Letterman said, when Moonves finally pried himself loose. “Everyone backstage…thinks I’m Bob Schieffer.”
Then Dave hugged Moonves again, calling him “the man who single-handedly is saving network television.”
“He wrinkled my suit,” Les said, to cover his embarrassment.
New shows are in bold
8 p.m. How I Met Your Mother
8:30 p.m. We Are Men
9 p.m. 2 Broke Girls
9:30 p.m. Mom
10 p.m. Hostages/Intelligence (starting in Feb.)
8 p.m. NCIS
9 p.m. NCIS: Los Angeles
10 p.m. Person of Interest*
8 p.m. Survivor
9 p.m. Criminal Minds
10 p.m. CSI
8 p.m. The Big Bang Theory
8:30 p.m. The Millers
9 p.m. The Crazy Ones
9:30 p.m. Two and a Half Men*
10 p.m. Elementary
8 p.m. Undercover Boss
9 p.m. Hawaii Five-0*
10 p.m. Blue Bloods
7 p.m. 60 Minutes
8 p.m. The Amazing Race
9 p.m. The Good Wife
10 p.m. The Mentalist
*moved to a new timeslot
(Meanwhile, the network bid farewell to “CSI: New York,” “Golden Boy,” “Made in Jersey,” “Partners,” “Rules of Engagement,” and “Vegas.”)
Video: A look at ABC’s new series
Blog: ABC’s 2013-2014 schedule
Video: A look at Fox’s new series
Blog: Fox’s 2013-2014 schedule
Video: A look at NBC’s new series
Blog: NBC’s 2013-2014 schedule