NEW YORK — CBS, the country’s most-popular TV network, will add four comedies and two dramas next season — boosting its prime-time lineup with the likes of Robin Williams and Will Arnett.
“We’re the center of the universe,” CBS chief executive Les Moonves crowed Wednesday at his network’s traditional Broadcast Upfront Week morning news conference to unveil its lineup.
CBS is doing very little changing to its schedule compared with that of its broadcast competitors, who announced their 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 will also finish first among 18-to-49-year-old viewers — the industry’s ad-sales currency — for the first time since the 1991-92 season.
Hammocked between those two will be the new “We Are Men,” which CBS Entertainment programming chief Nina Tassler said was pitched to the network in previous seasons. The network had resisted, she said, because it is a single-camera comedy. The show stars Chris Smith, who, having been ditched at the altar, is 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 building.
Also on Mondays, Chuck Lorre’s latest CBS comedy, “Mom,” moves in at 9:30 p.m., starring Anna Faris as a newly sober single mom working as a waitress in Northern California’s wine country.
At 10 on Mondays, CBS will debut two dramas:
First, “Hostages” — a highly serialized suspense thriller from Jerry Bruckheimer — stars Toni Collette as a surgeon who is 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 “Hostages” will run virtually without repeats in the mix, from the start of the season into January.
After that show’s run this season, “Intelligence” premieres. The show — which has a 13-episode order — will star Josh Holloway as an intelligence operative who has a microchip in his brain, giving him free Internet, telephone and satellite data. He can hack into any data center and access key intel in the fight to protect the United States from its enemies.
It’s been more than 30 years since the nation’s three most-watched dramas aired on the same network on the same night — when “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest” were on during the 1981-82 season.
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 that night after research revealed that 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.
Kahl said he liked CBS’s chances against the competition on that 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. That night includes “Criminal Minds” at 9 p.m., which, Kahl noted, snags about 5 million more viewers than NBC’s time-slot competitor, “Law & Order: SVU.”
As for Thursdays, Kahl said he’s not sure that people realize how big “The Big Bang Theory” has become, noting that the audience difference between the sizes of the “BB” and of NBC’s time-period competitor for fall, “Parks & Rec,” would qualify as a Top 10 show.
Tassler noted that “BB’s” repeats are the No. 1-rated comedy — on cable.
“Two and a Half Men” has been pushed to 9:30 on Thursdays, in between sitcoms that CBS has scheduled.
“The Millers” stars Arnett, the latest actor who has decided that starring in critically adored but low-rated and soon-canceled Fox and NBC comedies is well and good — but now it’s time to be in a big, broad CBS sitcom hit.
That’s in real life. On the show, 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 TV series that’s been slapped in the critical 9 p.m. tent pole time slot, Kahl explained to reporters in the room. Robin Williams is one of them. He’s the star of CBS’s new Thursday-at-9-p.m. single-camera comedy (Keeping track? That’s two on the schedule), “The Crazy Ones.” Williams plays a successful advertising exec, and 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 McDonald’s and getting Kelly Clarkson to sing the McDonald’s 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, likened the Upfront Week presentation to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, “but with more agents and a little less [heinie]-sniffing.” The long-ago “Mork & Mindy” star noted that it’s been 30 years since he was on TV — and that 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,” “Super Train” and “Mork & Mindy” to an enthusiastic response from stoned ad execs.
Advertisers lapped it up.
Elsewhere, “Elementary” gets the coveted Thursday-at-10 time slot, where its 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 that he expects it to get more sampling on its new night.
CBS’s Friday nights will start at 8 with the reality series “Undercover Boss,” which Kahl predicted would do just fine against its reality series time-period competitor on NBC, Gordon Ramsay’s “Junior Masterchef.” — or, as it’s known around CBS, “Kids With Knives.”
The next night, Saturday Rerun Theatre is not unique to CBS; the network has just branded it more cleverly: 8 to 9 p.m. is “Comedytime Saturday,” 9 to 10 is “Crimetime Saturday” and 10 is “48 Hours.”
On Sunday, CBS’s “Prestige Night” is returning intact, Kahl explained.
CBS execs discussed just two midseason series: “Reckless,” a sultry legal drama that Tassler called “Body Heat”-esque, and the comedy “Friends With Better Lives,” about six friends at different life stages.
Being the last of the major broadcasters to present next season’s prime-time lineup to advertisers during the week, CBS suits got to comment on the others’ strategies and presentations.
“We’re very flattered Jimmy Kimmel called us ‘smug mother [expletive]’ — that means we’re winning,” Moonves said to titters from the breakfast crowd. He commended ABC for having kept Kimmel up onstage “as long as you can,” adding that a network that spends a lot of time talking about multiplatform (as ABC execs did the previous afternoon, and NBC and Fox did Monday) doesn’t want to talk about its ratings.
Kahl had a slightly different take on Kimmel’s crack about CBS: “We’re not smug. . . . We’re hungry. We want to win.”
Speaking of late-night hosts, David Letterman made a rare Upfront Week presentation appearance at CBS’s Carnegie Hall clambake — but he did not announce he was retiring, as some seemed to fear when they saw him walking out onstage. He did, however, hug Moonves. For a very, very long time.
“I’m honored to be here for your pledge drive,” Letterman said, as Moonves finally pried himself loose. “Everyone backstage . . . thinks I’m Bob Schieffer.”
Then Letterman hugged Moonves again, calling him “the man who single-handedly is saving network television.”
“He wrinkled my suit,” said Moonves, to cover his embarrassment.
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