Upfront Week 2012: CBS’ Schedule and Analysis

This week is basically like Christmas for television nerds like myself. Frankly, it is better. Of course, I am talking about Upfronts, the time of the year where the networks bring new fall schedules (and sometimes winter/spring schedules that do not end up sticking) to advertisers. Thanks to the glorious nature of the internet and Twitter, we basically already know what has been picked up and what has been canceled. But discussing brand-new schedules is still damn fun. All this week, I will be providing some thoughts on each network’s pilot orders (though I obviously have not seen anything), schedules and more. 

Almost caught up! Let’s move on to your parent’s favorite television network. CBS.

Primary needs: Another season, another round of successes for CBS. This year, CBS grew 2 Broke Girls and Person of Interest into freshman hits and kept the momentum going everywhere else. I would guess that Les Moonves and company were disappointed that Unforgettable and A Gifted Man did not do that well, but even CBS is open for a few failures here and there. Heading into next season, CBS needs to do what it always needs to do: Add a few solid performers to its always-aging crop of programs. There has been a lot of talk about opening up a second hour of comedy on Thursday to demolish NBC once and for all, but I think CBS would just settle with stabilizing the post-Big Bang Theory timeslot. On the drama side, the network needs the 10 p.m. timeslots on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday to be better. Take care of those things and CBS could dominate even more in 2012 and 2013.

Pilot orders:  Vegas, Elementary, Made in Jersey, Golden Boy (Drama); Partners, Friend Me (Comedy)

It is really easy to make fun of CBS and its perceived factory of procedurals loved by old people, but I have to be honest: CBS has the best slate of new series for next season (again, of course based on the short clip packages we have all seen). That response is partially based on the generally mediocre crop of pilots that were ordered to series but mostly based on the fact that Vegas, Elementary and Partners look very solid and Made in Jersey looks like something my mom will absolutely love and I might watch because Janet Montgomery is super pretty (Golden Boy and Friend Me don’t have air dates or clips yet, but the loglines, casts and creative teams are quality). For comparison’s sake, I would much rather have CBS trot out a period piece full of star-power like Vegas over Unforgettable. And despite all the rightful skepticism about the Eyeball’s modernized version of Sherlock Holmes, Elementary plays damn well. Jonny Lee Miller is a great television performer (and getting to do his natural accent work here, thankfully) and Lucy Liu handles drama well (see: Southland), making the Watson gender change less obnoxious in practice. The clip nicely balances fun and heft in a way I didn’t expect, even if it does play like a slightly darker version of The Mentalist. Partners features an excellent cast that should be able to overcome some awkward premise-y episodes that are surely to come. From the clip, it seemed to “get” dirty jokes better than the unfortunate way 2 Broke Girls keeps churning them out.

Schedule:

Monday

How I Met Your Mother

Partners

2 Broke Girls

Mike & Molly

Hawaii Five-0

Tuesday

NCIS

NCIS: Los Angeles

Vegas

Wednesday

Survivor

Criminal Minds

CSI:

Thursday

The Big Bang Theory

Two and a Half Men

Person of Interest

Elementary

Friday

CSI: NY

Made in Jersey

Blue Bloods

Saturday

Crimetime Saturday

48 Hours Mystery

Sunday

60 Minutes

The Amazing Race

The Good Wife

The Mentalist

Unsurprisingly, CBS made sizable moves to fix any holes in the schedule. The network eschewed the two-hour Thursday comedy block (leaving a lot of comedy pilots unordered in the aftermath), but pulled out a move with less risk and likely bigger pay-off in moving Two and a Half Men to 8:30 p.m. Now CBS has its two big comedies together again to duel with not only NBC’s comedies (which Big Bang slays on its own) but also FOX’s singing competition output. Plus, having Two and a Half Men lead into Person of Interest will only further help PoI, which in turn will likely help Elementary grow into a substantial success itself. Flow might be overrated in 2012, but if there is a place where it still matters, it is CBS, and the network executives there know how to make it work.

Moving Two and a Half Men over to Thursday means 2 Broke Girls slides back a half hour on Mondays, a move that will surely work just fine. Even if Girls does not grow substantially in season two, Mondays at 9 p.m. will not be so tough that CBS cannot deal with the slight dip from Men’s choke-hold on the timeslot. And really, moving Men away from Monday night creates a better block anyway. Partners seems like a fine fit with HIMYM and both Girls and Mike & Molly will continue to do well in their respective slots as well.

As I said up top, the other big question marks coming into Upfronts were the Tuesday and Sunday 10 p.m. spots and for my money, CBS answered those questions pretty easily. Despite the terrible and generic title, Vegas looks great and could give the Eyeball more Emmy attention. I’ll be curious to see how the ratings are since the series is a period piece, but with all that star wattage, one would think Vegas would be just fine – especially after the double shot of NCIS.

With the two new series taking those Tuesday and Thursday 10 p.m. slots The Mentalist was the odd series out and therefore it must relocate to Sundays at 10 p.m. However, going from old, wobbly CSI: Miami (RIP) to The Mentalist is a very nice upgrade in a timeslot that CBS could and should now gain ground in. Made in Jersey will not be anyone’s favorite new drama of next season, but snuggled between CSI: NY and Blue Bloods, it will do just fine. The clip played like a USA Network drama series, and as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing wrong with that.

The rest of the schedule is rock-solid. It’s CBS, y’all.

Initial analysis: I love it. CBS ditched a few unappealing series (Miami, A Gifted Man, Unforgettable and Rob) and replaced them with seemingly obvious upgrades. On top of that, CBS did as CBS always does by fixing the few issues on the schedule with the Two and a Half Men and 10 p.m. slot moves. I expect CBS to make the smartest moves, but I do not always expect CBS to have the most compelling pilots as well. 2012-2013 could be a massive season for the Eyeball.

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