'Criminal Minds' Think Alike (Or: Another Hit CBS Show Spawns a Spinoff)

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, October 1, 2009

CBS -- having fully recovered from the self-loathing that precipitated its "we can be hip, too" season a couple years back, in which it perpetrated the musical-drama "Viva Laughlin" and '70s sex-romp "Swingtown" on an unamused public -- is now focused with laserlike intensity on its wildly successful practice of cloning its procedural crime dramas.

Now that "NCIS" has been successfully cloned -- "NCIS: Los Angeles" is the highest-rated new series launch of the 2009-10 television season -- CBS has tuned its attention to its only remaining highly rated procedural crime drama that has not undergone replication: "Criminal Minds."

"Criminal Minds" also got off to a great start during Premiere Week, averaging 16 million viewers -- Wednesday's most-watched program.

CBS is developing a spinoff for next season that will be produced by the mothership's executive producers, Ed Bernero and Chris Mundy. So far so good.

Like "NCIS: LA," "Criminal Minds: Spinoff" will be unveiled as an episode of the original series, but with a bunch of new characters dropping by, probably in the spring.

Technically, "NCIS" itself was a spinoff of the CBS series "JAG," which had been an NBC series briefly, only NBC suits decided they weren't interested, so CBS picked it up. And that proved very wise indeed: In its seventh-season debut on Premiere Week, "NCIS" attracted the largest audience in its history -- nearly 21 million viewers.

Until Tuesday -- when it did even better, attracting 21.5 million.

Color Us Surprised

Some of the people who used to work for NBC on the comedy "Friends" are going to poke fun at that network's "The Office" in a new comedy for Showtime about a U.S. television network that buys a Britcom, then dumbs it down for American viewers. (Other presumed targets: NBC's "Coupling" or CBS's "The Worst Week" or Fox's "The Ortegas"?)

And because "Friends" creator David Crane is one of the creators of this new show, we're guessing it will have an all-white cast!

They've already cast Matt LeBlanc, who starred in "Friends" -- the show for which Crane first tried out his priceless "We wrote the script colorblind but these white actors just happened to be the best for the parts" line when asked by TV critics, back in the mid-'90s, how, in this day and age, an ensemble-cast show set in New York could wind up with such a homogeneous-as-white-milk cast.

Crane had perfected that line by 2006, when he introduced to many of the same TV critics a new show he'd created -- this time set in Philly and with an all-white ensemble cast of eight! That show: CBS's "The Class."

Anyway, Showtime's new comedy, "Episodes," is a single-camera, no-laugh-track show about a British couple who come to Hollywood to make a U.S. version of their hit comedy and things start to go awry. Starting with the re-casting of the proper British lead role with a sitcom star/hack played by LeBlanc -- who will be playing himself. (Did we mention LeBlanc means . . . "the white"?)

In addition to Crane, Jimmy Mulville will be one of the executive producers. His credits include U.K. shows that were adapted, in real life, into U.S. series. They include: "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," "The Kumars at No. 42" (which was called "The Ortegas" when it was adapted for Fox, which mercifully never aired the results) and "Worst Week" (which was called "The Worst Week of My Life" in the U.K.).

Also creating "Episodes," and executive producing, is Jeffrey Klarik, whose credits include the aforementioned all-white ensemble comedy "The Class" as well as "Mad About You."

"I am so glad I got the part. Seeing someone else play Matt LeBlanc would have been devastating," LeBlanc said in Showtime's announcement. Which is exactly the kind of cringe-worthy news-release canned quote you'd expect to turn up in the new show.

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