Upfront Navigator: Bruckheimer Television a Major Player in CBS Lineup

May 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

One company is responsible for three-quarters of CBS’s new Sunday prime-time schedule: Jerry Bruckheimer Television.

CBS’s biggest programming move for next season is its new Sunday night lineup of series, which replaces the network’s long-running TV movie franchise.

CBS News stalwart “60 Minutes” remains at 7 p.m. (ET) Sundays, but the rest of the night comprises Bruckheimer TV-produced fare: “The Amazing Race” at 8 p.m., “Cold Case” at 9 p.m. and “Without a Trace” at 10 p.m.

CBS executives have dubbed the lineup “‘Race’ into ‘Case’ into ‘Trace.'”

Along with his Sunday shows, Bruckheimer’s “CSI” series and the Friday drama “Close to Home” account for seven hours of CBS programming. That’s nearly one-third of CBS’s entire prime-time schedule-not counting repeats of Bruckheimer series in the network’s Saturday “Crimetime” block.

Jonathan Littman, president of Bruckheimer TV wasn’t surprised by “Trace’s” move from Thursdays and “Cold Case’s” shift from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., he told TelevisionWeek at the CBS upfront presentation after-party in New York’s Central Park.

“Race’s” reschedule, however, was a pleasant surprise.

“It’s an enormous vote of confidence,” Mr. Littman said. Mr. Bruckheimer, who produced the feature films “Pearl Harbor,” “Coyote Ugly” and “Armageddon,” has become a force in television over the past six years. In addition to the shows he has on CBS, Fox picked up his company’s drama “Justice” for this fall. Bruckheimer TV has been one of Warner Bros. Television’s most prolific and successful development partners.

He was not in New York during upfront week due to post-production commitments on a new film. Mr. Bruckheimer transitioned to television so easily because he was a fan of the medium and interested in learning the ins and outs of the business, Mr. Littman said. Within 20 minutes of meeting him, Mr. Littman, a former Fox creative executive, said he knew he wanted to work with Mr. Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer’s first pitch to CBS was in 1999 for “CSI,” when current Entertainment President Nina Tassler was running the network’s drama development. She already had spent her programming budget, but Mr. Littman convinced her to hear a pitch he and Mr. Bruckheimer believed in.

“I hit the wall already,” Ms. Tassler said of the October pitch, but “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker’s vision of a forensics series sold her on the pilot. She bought the project in the room.

CBS is still in business with Bruckheimer TV for a simple reason, Ms. Tassler said: “The programming is high-quality.”