CBS Head Kelly Kahl on ‘Magnum P.I.’ Cancellation, Scaling Back Comedies

The biggest surprise among the crop of canceled broadcast series this year is probably Magnum P.I., the solidly rated CBS reboot that got the boot after four seasons on the network.

CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl says the decision was “a tough one,” but made with the overall health of the schedule in mind.

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“Every year there are tough calls,” Kahl tells The Hollywood Reporter while discussing CBS’ 2022-23 schedule. “It’s typically not one thing — there are several factors, including looking at the big picture of the schedule and getting some new [shows] on. We really respected the hell out of that cast, and the producers as well.”

Kahl acknowledges that the Hawaii-filmed Magnum P.I. was expensive, but “the economics on a lot of shows are challenging. It’s not the sole reason. There are usually multiple factors.”

The most notable change to CBS’ primetime lineup for 2022-23 is that its Thursday comedy block will scale back to a single hour. The network also didn’t order any of its half-hour pilots to series, meaning it will ride with veteran series The Neighborhood and Bob Hearts Abishola on Mondays and the Young Sheldon/Ghosts combination on Thursdays for the entire season. (The four shows were the most watched comedies on the broadcast nets this season, per Nielsen.)

“The schedule breaks differently every year,” says Kahl, who was CBS’ head of scheduling prior to being elevated to lead the entertainment division. “The schedule that seemed to max out what we had in terms of the best new shows — and hopefully the maximum audience — kept coming back to this one. We had comedies we could have put on, but in terms of how it broke this year, this was the lineup.”

CBS is plugging So Help Me Todd, a legal drama with what Kahl deems a “lighter” tone, into the 9 p.m. hour on Thursdays. “It should be compatible coming out of the [comedy] hour,” he says.

The network will also have a rare three-hour block of unscripted shows on Wednesday nights, with The Real Love Boat — a dating show based loosely on the 1970s-80s hit — following new installments of Survivor and The Amazing Race.

Survivor is our No. 1 show in [adults] 25-54,” Kahl notes. “Our second-best performer in unscripted during the season is The Amazing Race. So it’s a great launchpad for a cool new show.”

The Real Love Boat will have some competitive aspects familiar to viewers of Love Island (whose U.S. version moved from CBS to Peacock), Kahl says. “We were intrigued not just by the IP and the beloved theme song, but there were things we really liked about Love Island [in this show] and elements that are more akin to The Amazing Race. It’s a little more adventurous, and we think people can have a lot of fun with it.”

Like rivals ABC and NBC, CBS did not make major changes to its primetime schedule for next season. The four series the network plans to debut in the fall — dramas Fire Country and East New York join So Help Me Todd and The Real Love Boat — all have established shows as lead-ins, letting CBS repeat a playbook that helped it successfully launch Ghosts, NCIS: Hawai’i and FBI: International this season.

“Having successful shows and being stable allows you to launch new shows,” Kahl says. “It’s harder to launch new shows now. The competition is brutal. But using hits to launch new hits, that’s an advantageous situation.”

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