Analysis: CBS Bold in Comedy, Shores Up Drama Slots for Fall
CBS played mostly to expectations with its fall lineup, making necessary and aggressive moves in comedy by adding a quartet of new half-hours — including two of the single-camera variety — and expanding its block on Thursday to four shows.
From a marketing perspective, CBS will be able to zero in on two nights, as Monday and Thursday are home to all five of the net’s new programs for fall. Wednesday and Sunday, meanwhile, remain intact while Tuesday and Friday replace sagging timeslots with proven crime shows moving over from other nights.
The only real mystery heading into Wednesday’s announcement was the order of the laffers, and in particular how CBS might schedule those that are single-camera, a style of comedy the net has largely shunned over the years. In something of a surprise, the Eye kept “The Big Bang Theory” in the leadoff slot on Thursday rather than put it at 9, where it would do bigger numbers but at the same time leave the beginning of the night vulnerable. And by pushing “Two and a Half Men” back an hour to 9:30 p.m., CBS is guaranteed of having a good number leading into “Elementary.” (CBS probably wanted to position the proven “Two and a Half Men” opposite NBC’s “Michael J. Fox Show,” as the latter figures to get especially strong tune-in at the outset of the season.)
Sandwiched between the vets are a pair of newcomers, multi-cam “The Millers” and single-cam “The Crazy Ones.” The latter gets the high-profile 9 p.m. slot because of the buzz it should create (Robin Williams’ return to TV comedy), and the former gets the best lead-in on television. (And CBS has an insurance policy in place for “The Millers” with a full 22-episode order of “Mike & Molly” waiting in the wings.)
CBS is well positioned for overall gains on Thursday, even if “The Millers” can’t approach what “Two and a Half Men” did this season, because the 9 p.m. hour — barring a total collapse by “The Crazy Ones” — will be able to improve on drama “Person of Interest,” which stalled in the hour this season despite a stronger lead-in than last year. And any stronger showing at 9:30 p.m. could help same-night viewing for “Elementary,” the season’s most-watched new program and a good gainer in DVR playback.
On Monday, the net again placed its best new-show bet in the 9 o’clock hour (Chuck Lorre’s “Mom” at 9:30), where it should be able to mesh well with 9 p.m.’s “2 Broke Girls” and provide a good lead-in to new drama “Hostages.” And the 8:30 p.m. slot went to the new, single-cam “We Are Men,” with the seemingly more compatible “Friends With Better Lives” being held for midseason.
On the drama front, CBS is making Monday a high priority, slotting the limited-run, serialized “Hostages” from Jerry Bruckheimer at 10 p.m. to start the season, with the Josh Holloway-fronted “Intelligence” replacing it in the winter. “Hostages” is a good choice by CBS to counter NBC’s own new show in the hour, the James Spader drama “Blacklist,” which has been getting good buzz and will benefit from a sizable lead-in courtesy of “The Voice.”
While most eyes will be on CBS’ Monday and Thursday this fall, the net made smart moves to strengthen other nights by shifting “Person of Interest” to 10 p.m. on Tuesday and “Hawaii Five-O” to 9 p.m. on Friday. These were two timeslots that really struggled for the net this season — and improvements over last year’s “Vegas” and “Made in Jersey” should be significant.