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Posted at 09:20 AM ET, 05/18/2011

Upfronts Week 2011: CBS moves ‘CSI’ to Wednesday to make room for new J.J. Abrams series


James Caviezel and Michael Emerson star in new CBS drama “Person of Interest.” (JEFFREY R STAAB - CBS)

Will fans of J.J. Abrams’s dive-down-the-rabbit hole dramas follow him to CBS on Thursday night if he’s signed on to do a show that’s less JJ-trademark mythology-maze, and more CBS procedural?

CBS suits hope so, because they’ve tossed “CSI” out of their very best drama-series time slot – Thursdays at 9 – to make room for “Person of Interest,” starring Michael Emerson, of JJ’s “Lost” fame.

Meanwhile, the best testing pilot in CBS history – so CBS suits say -- has landed between “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men” on Monday nights for the 2011-12 TV season. It’s a comedy called “2 Broke Girls” from “Sex and the City’s” Michael Patrick King and starring two chicks you’ve probably never heard of.

CBS also is getting back into the touched by angel cum talking to dead folks business on Friday nights.

And, in one of this week’s bigger scheduling surprises, a broadcast network has actually scheduled a series on Saturday night, bucking the “Saturday, Rerun Theatre” trend. Sure, it’s just one sitcom, and it’s just CBS’s utility player “Rules of Engagement,” but the network gets props for testing the theory that David Spade fans will follow him anywhere. If it works, it drives more viewers into the half-hour that follows, where CBS plans to “double pump” its new comedies, to get them better sampled.

“We had an embarrassment of riches” CBS programming chief Nina Tassler told The Reporters Who Cover Television and TV critics at a Wednesday morning Q&A before the network’s afternoon presentation of its new schedule to advertisers.

”We needed another night. We needed Sunursday.”

“Person of Interest” is CBS’s highest testing drama pilot in 15 years, CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl said at the breakfast news conference.

“We were looking for an opportunity to hit a home run.” Kahl said of the “CSI” swap for “PoI.” The new drama, Kahl said, had “crazy broad appeal you don’t usually see” in testing, during development season this spring.

“PoI” stars Emerson as a software billionaire who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crime. He teams up with a presumed dead former CIA agent to stop crimes before they happen. One reporter noted CBS suits have in the past scoffed at JJ shows because they tend to be drenched in mythology, burn very bright and flame out fast, and wondered if CBS suits were worried this one would go the way of, say “Fringe.”


Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs star in “2 Broke Girls” on CBS. 2 (RICHARD CARTWRIGHT - CBS)
No, said Tassler, because this show was neither created by JJ, nor is it being run by JJ. Turns out, it was created by Jonathan Nolan (“Memento”) -- a devotee of the old “The Equalizer” series -- and it will be run by Greg Plageman, who has a track record with CBS, having worked on “Cold Case.” It has, Tassler insisted, all the “bells and whistles of a great CBS procedural,” but one that has been “tweaked” with JJ’s sensibility.

On Mondays, in between “How I Met Your Mother” – which is CBS’s youngest skewing show – and Charlie Sheen-less “Two and a Half Men” CBS has scheduled “2 Broke Girls” which CBS execs said was the networks’ highest testing show ever, even though it stars two unknowns.

“Are you serving more alcohol” at the testing sessions?” one reporter snarked.

“Who knows – it’s Vegas,” CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl shot right back.

“2 Broke Girls” started out as a spec script shopped around town late last year, written by Michael Patrick King of “Sex and the City” fame, and Whitney Cummings – who is also starring in a new NBC sitcom called “Whitney” on Thursday nights. “2 Broke Girls” is about two waitresses at a greasy spoon who are saying money to launch a cupcake business.

And “out of respect to” “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre, CBS suits will not say how he’s going to bump Charlie Sheen’s character off the show; Wednesday morning they would only says “he’s cooked up something fabulous.” Oh, and they’re “thrilled” about Ashton Kutcher joining the cast.

“It’s awesome to be here!” Kutcher told advertisers Wednesday at CBS’s Carnegie Hall presentation.

Flanked by his “Men” co-stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones, Kutcher said he’d received so many emails congratulating him since the announcement, “you’d almost think I’d won the lotti or something.

“Which I kind of did,” Kutcher smirked.

The audience guffawed, what “Men” production house Warner Bros. having said emphatically that whoever replaced Charlie Sheen on the show would not make Charlie Sheen dollars.


Poppy Montgomery in “Unforgettable.” (Barbara Nitke - CBS)
“And by that,” Kutcher added coyly, “I mean I got the best job” in showbiz.

In Tuesday’s only change, CBS has thrown over “The Good Wife” at 10, in favor of Poppy Montgomery in “Unforgettable,” playing an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless she remembers literally every place, conversation, and moment of her life – except details that would help her solve her sister’s murder.

“The Good Wife” has had to relocate to Sundays at 9 where it will compete against the “Desperate Housewives” of ABC.

Meanwhile, displaced “CSI” has landed Wednesdays at 10, replacing canceled “The Defenders” and whatever else CBS tested in that hour this season.

Thursday, in addition to its new sorta-a-JJ-drama, CBS has added a new comedy companion to “Big Bang Theory.” It’s inspired by the book “How to Be a Gentleman” which is lucky, because that’s what the new series is called too. It’s from, and it stars David Hornsby of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fame. He plays an etiquette columnist at an Esquire-ish magazine, that has been bought and turned into a more Maxim-like rag. So, his editor, Dave Foley, tells him to change the column or else. So Etiquette Guy turns to a “reformed” bad boy from his past, who has inherited a fitness center and yet somehow manages to retain the rude, loud, sloppy style that made him so popular. Rude Loud Guy teaches Etiquette Guy how to become less “gentle man” and more “real man.” Hey, don’t look at me – this is CBS’s description of the show. And, because it’s a CBS comedy, the overhaul of Etiquette Guy will have the approval, not only of his sister who is bossy, but also of his brother-in-law, “if he was allowed to have an opinion.” Too late! We’ve already elected ourselves captain of Team Eye Roll on this one.


Kevin Dillon and David Hornsby in “How to Be a Gentleman.” (GREG GAYNE - CBS)
CBS is getting back into the touched by angel cum talking to dead folks game on Fridays, at 8, with “The Gifted Man.” It’s about a brilliant charismatic surgeon who lacks bedside manner until his deceased ex-wife shows up to teach him the meaning of life from the “hereafter.” Think “Ghost Whisperer” meets “Touched by an Angel” meets “House.” It’s from Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”). And how excited were CBS suits Wednesday that they got to say Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs”) directed the pilot.

“We had a problem this year,” Kahl said, moving on to discuss Saturday’s schedule. “Too much product.”

So they’ve put “Rules of Engagement” on the night, at 8, leading into a half hour that’s been given the name “Comedytime” and reserved for second broadcasts of the network’s new Monday and Thursday comedies, to help get them sampled by more viewers. Expectations for “Rules” ratings are modest, the CBS execs said but, they noted, wherever they put “Rules” its fans seem to find it.

Before walking ad execs through the new lineup at Carnegie Hall Wednesday afternoon, CBS had trotted out News division chief Jeff Fager so he could introduce Katie Couric’s replacement Scott Pelley.

Pelley, in full-throated anchorman mode spoke of this and that. And, did you know that:

Pelley + gravitas + Carnegie Hall = Dan Rather? It was genuinely unnerving.

“Thank you, Jeff and Scott,” Tassler said as we gaped. “We ARE looking forward to June 6,” she said, which was the closest we’ve heard yet to “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Katie,” from anyone at CBS.

CBS TELEVISION NETWORK

2011-2012 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

(N=New, NT=New Time, all times ET/PT)

MONDAY

8:00-8:30 PM HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

8:30-9:00 PM 2 BROKE GIRLS (N)

9:00-9:30 PM TWO AND A HALF MEN

9:30-10:00 PM MIKE & MOLLY

10:00-11:00 PM HAWAII FIVE-0

TUESDAY

8:00-9:00 PM NCIS

9:00-10:00 PM NCIS: LOS ANGELES

10:00-11:00 PM UNFORGETTABLE (N)

WEDNESDAY

8:00-9:00 PM SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC

9:00-10:00 PM CRIMINAL MINDS

10:00-11:00 PM CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (NT)

THURSDAY

8:00-8:30 PM THE BIG BANG THEORY

8:30-9:00 PM HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN (N)

9:00-10:00 PM PERSON OF INTEREST (N)

10:00-11:00 PM THE MENTALIST

FRIDAY

8:00-9:00 PM A GIFTED MAN (N)

9:00-10:00 PM CSI: NY

10:00-11:00 PM BLUE BLOODS

SATURDAY

8:00-8:30 PM RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (NT)

8:30-9:00 PM COMEDYTIME SATURDAY

9:00-10:00 PM CRIMETIME SATURDAY

10:00-11:00 PM 48 HOURS MYSTERY

SUNDAY

7:00-8:00 PM 60 MINUTES

8:00-9:00 PM THE AMAZING RACE

9:00-10:00 PM THE GOOD WIFE (NT)

10:00-11:00 PM CSI: MIAMI

More from upfront week:

Photos: Networks unveil new shows

A look at Fox’s new series

Fox cancels ‘America’s Most Wanted’ as a weekly series, schedules dino drama ‘Terra Nova’

A look at NBC’s new series

NBC re-discovers women in new primetime schedule

No presidential run for Trump, but an ‘Apprentice’ pitch

ABC goes retro with Tim Allen comedy, ‘Charlie’s Angels’

A look at ABC’s new series

By  |  09:20 AM ET, 05/18/2011

 
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