CBS Looks to Laughs, Ladies for Fall

May 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

CBS is hoping a scheduling strategy that stresses laughs, ladies and lots of procedural dramas will help it regain the Nielsen crown it’s ceding to Fox.
After a five-year run as the most-watched network, CBS later this month is expected to finish behind Fox in the Nielsen race for total viewers. Fallout from the Writers Guild of America strike, combined with an aging lineup and a 2007 freshman class that yielded not a single returning drama, contributed to the network’s loss.
Some critics have faulted CBS for straying too far from its procedural roots last May by greenlighting projects featuring singing detectives and hunky vampires. The 2008-09 lineup is more grounded—but it doesn’t represent a complete retreat into the network’s safe zone of crime-blotter dramas and multicamera comedies, either.
“We wanted to get back to just making great shows, shows that had the potential to run a long time,” CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told reporters Wednesday at a press conference announcing her schedule. “We also had to try some new tones and styles.”
Ms. Tassler said that meant her network’s new and existing procedural dramas would feature more character development, by adding humor or fleshing out the lives of the people saving lives and stopping bad guys. Cable’s USA Network has had success blending formats with shows such as “Monk” and “Psych.”
Strong women also will take center stage at CBS this fall, with female-led series kicking off two nights and a new romantic drama with a lead female character (“The Ex List”) joining “Ghost Whisperer” on Fridays. “The Unit” also will add a female lead.
“Women drive network television,” Ms. Tassler said. “Women watch our procedurals and comedies, and we wanted to build on that.”
Most notably, CBS will try to evolve its image by adding a second night on which it programs comedies. It will air two sitcoms Wednesdays from 8 to 9 p.m. The last time the network began a fall season with two comedy nights was in 2005, when it also aired sitcoms on Wednesdays.
Kelly Kahl, CBS’ scheduling and program planning czar, noted that comedy has worked well on the lineup in the past. “Every time we’ve done it, we’ve improved the time period and gotten younger.”
Ms. Tassler’s boss, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, opened the press conference by declaring that the compressed development season worked out to the network’s benefit.
“It forced people to concentrate more and work harder,” he said.
Ms. Tassler concurred, explaining that when execs are “under duress, you make smarter, and maybe better, decisions.”
Overall, CBS is adding two comedies and three dramas to its lineup. It’s making changes every night of the week except Saturdays.
The schedule has the feeling of stability, however, thanks to the presence of returning shows in all of its 8 p.m. time periods. The only new 10 p.m. show is the Jerry Bruckheimer drama “Eleventh Hour,” which gets the coveted slot behind “CSI” on Thursday night.
“The real goal was balance,” said Mr. Kahl. “Balance between comedy and drama, between old shows and new. We feel it’s very important to give new shows the best opportunity possible to succeed.”
Just as “Eleventh Hour” got the best drama slot on CBS’ schedule, new comedy “Worst Week” has snagged an ideal comedy time period—9:30 p.m. Monday, behind “Two and a Half Men.” As expected, Universal Media Studios will become a financial partner in the show, which will be the only single-camera half-hour on the CBS Monday lineup (“How I Met Your Mother” is a hybrid).
The other new CBS half-hour comedy, “Project Gary,” will air Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., behind the relocated “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
Meanwhile, Friday nights will be home to “The Ex List,” the romantic drama about a woman who dates her past boyfriends in order to rediscover her true love.
Relocating to 10 p.m. Sundays is “The Unit,” which seemed at one point this year headed toward cancellation. A strong story pitch from the show’s producers helped make the difference between life and death.
And after attempting—unsuccessfully—to launch a new show Tuesdays at 10, CBS is sticking with the tried-and-true by airlifting “Without a Trace” into the time period.
For midseason, CBS will roll out murder mystery drama “Harper’s Island.” Comedy “Rules of Engagement” is on the shelf as well.
Among the series not returning to CBS: “Moonlight,” “Jericho,” “Cane,” “Shark,” “Viva Laughlin” and “Welcome to the Captain.”


  1. ‘Women drive network television’…so they decide to get rid of the man voted TV Guide’s Sexiest Sci-Fi Guy? Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? I’m a 22 year old woman and I can honestly say that I’d much rather watch the hottest guys on TV than see more of Hollywood’s unrealistic version of women on my screen. TV is supposed to be entertainment, a way of escaping and relaxing after a tough day. What better way could there be for women to forget our troubles and stresses than by watching Alex O’Loughlin or Jason Dohring strut around shirtless on Moonlight? I certainly don’t want to watch some woman flit around trying to track down her ex-boyfriends based on some psychic’s whim.
    And what is CBS trying to say about women with a show like that anyway? That we’re dumb enough to base our love lives on a single statement made by a complete stranger who claims to know the future? No thanks CBS, I think I’ll pass. In fact, I’ll pass on your entire fall lineup. I’m sure there are other networks out there who’d love to have my advertising dollars, even if they don’t have anyone as hot as Alex O’Loughlin (unless they’re smarter than CBS and pick-up his amazing show).

  2. I’ve never watched the show but I agree CBS is making a big mistake in canceling it. Can we say “NBC cancels Star Trek:” and “NBC cancels Baywatch” as comparisons? That network paid big time for both mistakes.
    Why don’t they dump Survivor? It’s been on way too long-should have only lasted 2 seasons at most. I know it has good ratings, but look at the Minnesota Twins-they traded Johan santana and Torii Hunter, who were top performers, for a cream of fresh taalentt and they are still doing well.
    My first decision at CBS as chief exec would be to dump Survivor. Second would be to drop the crazy new format for producing Guiding Light as if it were Clovefield or Blair Witch Project or something and return it to normal-or maybe cancel it altogether.

  3. The irony of it all. CBS cancels the most romatic series in the entire history of television in their attempt to attract women. Just who the heck do they think are buying all those romance novels.
    Alex O’Loughlin and Sophia Myles are HOT! The star crossed lovers make an incredibly complelling story line.
    I appreciate Phil K.’s Star Trek analogy, but I fear the Moonlight porducers are not up to the job. I don’t see a Gene Roddenbery to foster and keep the dream alive. But, if CBS or another network were to wake up, the fans are certainly there.

  4. To anyone who cares…
    Kelly states: “I’m a 22 year old woman and I can honestly say that I’d much rather watch the hottest guys on TV than see more of Hollywood’s unrealistic version of women on my screen.” Can’t say that I don’t agree… however – she
    then goes further with this threatening statement – “In fact, I’ll pass on your entire fall lineup. I’m sure there are other networks out there who’d love to have my advertising dollars, even if they don’t have anyone as hot as Alex O’Loughlin”
    Wonder what lucky client has her for their buyer… making her buying decisions on hot guys vs research. Yikes Hope her clients don’t realize how she makes her buying decisions. Wonder how many dollars Kelly controls

  5. I have to say I agree with Kelly. . . what is CBS thinking! I’d much rather watch Alex O’Loughlin than watch another show of women (no matter what their scenario). Moonlight is one of the best shows to come out since Ghost Whispers. I enjoy the twist to the story line about vampires (something I’ve always stayed away from until now), it nice to see someone had an original idea! I’m sorry to say CBS has probably just lost me on Friday nights! Hopefully someone else will pick the show up, it’s so aggravating to get involved in a show you love just for the network to up and cancel. As far as the comedy goes, I need to say that the New Adventures of Old Christine and Two and a Half Men are teethering on the border line of being unacceptable for prime time tv, they may need to rethink their time periods.

  6. I am so upset over the canceling of moonlight. Why is it everytime I get into a show it gets canceled. I am done watching CBS now. I watched Ghost Whisperer and Moonlight and thats it. Now I don’t have any reason to watch it. CBS you suck!

  7. Big mistake in cancelling “Moonlight”, CBS. The Wizard is right — Alex O’Loughlin and Sophia Myles are not merely hot, they’re smokin’HOT! Where was the show promotion in all of this, as well? Seems like the CBS promo folks ran seemingly endless spots urging us to watch “Cane”, “Welcome to the Captain” and “Viva Laughlin”, but you had to watch the network very carefully to determine if “Moonlight” was even on the network this week.
    It’s the only show out of all of them I hear buzz about in my neck of the woods. I honestly think this is a show that needed a longer run and some producer tweaking to find a mass audience, but I agree, the Fans Are Out There. Perhaps “Moonlight” could go to Showtime, or CW?
    IMO, the rest of CBS’s schedule is getting tired, and there will come a day of reckoning. Survivor in particular deserves nuking, but it’s probably still cheaper to run than anything else the programmers can think of.

  8. Guess what Nina you just totally lost your women audience with the appalling decision to cancel Moonlight. What woman doesnt want to kick back on a Friday night with a glass of wine unwind from a hard week and watch one sexy vampire Mick St John kick butt.
    Oh no us women want to watch a 30 something loser hunt down a husband from her ex’s. Something none of us are doing ourselves right!

  9. cancelling moonlight is such a stupid decision..the show won ratings in its time slot every SINGLE WEEK. doesnt that count for anything?
    obviously moonlight fans are loyal, and CBS is blind for not noticing that.

  10. Nina, Nina, Nina, BIG MISTAKE!!!! Moonlight was one show that I could sit back and really enjoy! So many of your shows are either crime with gore or so called comedy with a little too much sexual reference. Moonlight had all the makings of a decent and respectable show. Good scripts, and chemistry with the two main characters. Also, I’d much rather have dreams of Alex O’Loughlin, then nightmares of blood and gore. I’m so disappointed. I will think twice when it comes to CBS. Maybe there is another network out there after all. This gives me reason to look.

  11. CBS–Nina, Canceling Moonlight, all I can say is, it is about time. I had to watch every episode, every rerun, and the reruns during the writers strike. On top of that, my wife TiVo’d it. I get home late from work, and she doesn’t even know I’m late because she’s watching the show. I finally get to watch ESPN on Friday nights. Smart move.

  12. Oh, how could CBS cancel Moonlight? It’s the best drama-romantic show in years. I am tried of watching crime, sitcoms soap opera shows. CBS you have lost me as a viewer on your tV network.
    Please explain why the show was cancelled.

  13. Oh, how could CBS cancel Moonlight? It’s the best drama-romantic show in years. I am tried of watching crime, sitcoms soap opera shows. CBS you have lost me as a viewer on your tV network.
    Please explain why the show was cancelled.

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