Up Front at the Upfronts: CBS

Big Bang Theory

This week in New York City, the four broadcast networks are unveiling their fall schedules, complete with renewals, cancellations and pickups. Though a volley of announcements earlier this week robbed the announcements of much of their suspense, and the very idea of a fixed schedule is irrelevant to a large percentage of the TV viewing public, these announcements remain interesting as the last vestiges of an outmoded business model.

ABC is up second. Click here for the network’s fall schedule with HitFix TV reporter Joe Adalian’s analysis. Notable points:

Two and a Half Men

Sinking Fortunes: For a while, CBS was the de facto broadcast network success story. With the eminently reliable CSI and NCIS franchises, television’s two most-watched comedies (The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, and a seemingly endless supply of bankable police procedurals and multi-camera sitcoms, the network could no wrong, even as the target audience remained significantly above that of the Twittersphere.

But this season, the cracks started to show. Two and a Half Men lost steam without the buzz factor of Charlie Sheen’s departure, Ashton Kutcher’s entrance and the sad unraveling of Angus T. Jones. (The network announced that the show will end its run this year.) A majority of the network’s new shows failed to ignite, including its attempt at a “limited series event,” the turgid Hostages. Even as The Big Bang Theory continues to gain new viewers deep into its run, the Eye could no longer rest on its laurels, and this new schedule reflects the need for change.

NCIS LA

Smooth Moves: For the first time since its inception, NCIS: Los Angeles will air separately from its mothership, the eternally popular original recipe NCIS. The Big Bang Theory will temporarily relocate to Mondays to accommodate CBS’ recent acquisition of the Thursday night football franchise, will provide counterprogramming to the Shonda Rhimes experience on ABC. Person of Interest is moving to Tuesdays at 10:00, The Amazing Race is moving to Fridays at 8:00 and CSI is moving to Sundays. With this aggressive reshuffling, CBS isn’t going to slide into obscurity without a fight.

Battle Creek

Benched: All four networks are playing coy with some of their most promising shows, and CBS is no exception. Neither the high-profile remake of The Odd Couple starring Matthew Perry and the Vince Gilligan-created drama Battle Creek is on the fall schedule. This decision reinforces the increasing notion that the broadcast networks are taking cues from cable, spreading out their most attractive offerings throughout the year.

Hostages

Creative Rut: As much as CBS is willing to shuffle its lineup, the new shows on its docket are classic CBS. Scorpion is a mystery procedural series starring Katherine McPhee, an actress of questionable skill. Stalker is a crime-solving procedural series starring Dylan McDermott, fresh off the utterly absurd Hostages, which CBS swiftly cancelled after thirteen low-rated episodes. The McCarthys is a sitcom with a title that’s as generic as The Millers, which is hardly ratings dynamite. Perhaps the most important move that CBS has yet to make is in the realm of the creative. The status quo isn’t enough anymore.

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