CBS renews The Mentalist, then cancels so much other stuff

CBS renews The Mentalist, then cancels so much other stuff

Practicing mentalism since 2008. (CBS)
Practicing mentalism since 2008. (CBS)

Somewhat unexpectedly, CBS has renewed evergreen procedural The Mentalist for a seventh season. For a time, it looked as if season six would be it for the show, but the network’s evident caution this development season held sway, and the show will be back for at least 13 episodes. Nobody knows the full size of the order, but Deadline suggests there have been talks about those 13 episodes being a sort of final season for the series. The Mentalist once looked like it might become the heir apparent to C.S.I.’s stranglehold on the CBS schedule, but it never quite achieved ratings liftoff without a strong lead-in, and its run on Sundays has been plagued by football overruns and other issues. But Simon Baker was nominated for an Emmy that one time, and we all got to make a lot of jokes about how similar the show was to Psych. So it was a “success.”

Of course, CBS can’t renew anything without cutting down five others (as foretold by prophecy), so the network also busily cleared out its chaff. Some of those cuts were expected. Hostages was a big swing for the network that failed to connect with audiences or critics (though the loss of Dylan McDermott’s character prompted our own Sonia Saraiya to make a low-pitched keening noise for most of the morning), while the “Josh Holloway IS Chuck” series Intelligence also utterly flopped in the Mondays at 10 p.m. timeslot. Despite having the season’s highest rated debut (after the NCIS/NCIS: LA duo), viewers quickly fled the show and Holloway’s lovely, lovely cheekbones. Clearly, the network’s top priority for the fall will be fixing up its Monday lineup, and these two cancellations are the first indication of that.

The network also cut down some of its first-season comedies, too, after it picked up so many last spring in a big bid that comedy was the next big thing. Of the three, Bad Teacher was the least surprising. It was rather off-brand for CBS and has performed about exactly as you’d expect in the network’s Thursday lineup. It was a show that had its moments, but it really belonged on, oh, any other network. After that was The Crazy Ones, another series that debuted huge then saw dramatic audience decreases throughout the season. There was some speculation CBS might bring it back just because Robin Williams was in it, but the network surely knew getting viewers to re-sample a show they’ve abandoned is much harder than getting them to sample it once. We had heard it got better. We guess we’ll never know. Finally, the network also canceled Friends With Better Lives, which it had hoped would be the How I Met Your Mother replacement it needed. Instead, the show followed HIMYM too closely and struggled in the ratings in its first season, despite being a more consistent performer than either of the other two canceled comedy series. Anyway, it’s gone now, but, as Deadline notes, 20th Century Fox may try selling it to someone else, because new Rules Of Engagements don’t just create themselves.

As Deadline notes, those three comedy cancellations leave CBS with only seven eith comedy series heading into next season, just enough to fill out its two, two-hour comedy blocs, but not enough if any of its new series bomb outright, as at least one inevitably will. Even if the network picks up How I Met Your Dad (which has yet to receive notice one way or the other), presumably some of these shows will slip to midseason—particularly with the network spending eight weeks broadcasting football on Thursdays in the fall—so it seems quite likely the network is beating a hasty retreat from its two-hour Thursday comedy bloc, perhaps collapsing back to Big Bang Theory and Two And A Half Men in the 8 p.m. hour, then putting a drama back at 9. But we don’t know yet, nor do we know if How I Met Your Dad is a goner, because 20th Century Fox Television is having a no good, very bad upfronts season, with that surefire pickup caught in some sort of limbo and ABC still hedging on seemingly easy renewal Last Man Standing for some reason. We can only assume the studio’s presidents, Gary Newman and Dana Walden, are going to get home from a hard day of upfronting, only to find that a bunch of wild animals have eaten the birthday cake. “Oh no!” they’ll say, flattening their hands against their faces. “Those dumb animals ate all the birthday cake!” It will be the worst upfronts season. The worst.

Unless you read The A.V. Club, that is! We’ve got upfronts coverage all weekend, leading into NBC’s announcement of its schedule tomorrow.

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