The major theme CBS executives have wanted TV reporters and critics to take away about the network for a while now (including in this morning’s press conference/conference call announcing the new fall schedule) has been that the network actually garners far more young viewers than it gets credit for. And, yeah, the network does fairly well among 18-49-year-olds (and has ordered a couple of series that seem as if they might attract those in the demographic), but the reputation is so set in stone that we have to assume all of those 18-49-year-old viewers are housed in a TV-watching sweatshop beneath CBS headquarters, where the network forces them to stay riveted with the latest adventures of Mr. NCIS and his good friend, Little Miss Criminal Minds.
But the schedule announced this morning is a picture of success for the network that’s either number one or number two, depending on how you look at it (and CBS would prefer the former, thanks), returning three new shows from 2010 and promising at least a couple of big moves (something the network has become fairly handy at doing). C.S.I., in fact, is moving out of the 9 p.m. Thursday time slot it's occupied since 2001 in favor of a J.J. Abrams-produced, Jonathan Nolan-scripted crime procedural, Person Of Interest. The network has also renewed Rules Of Engagement almost solely to place it on Saturdays, thus making it the first network to actually plan to put a scripted show on Saturdays on its fall schedule since CBS last did this back in the early 2000s. The overwhelming theme, as always, was, “Fuck you! We’re CBS! We do what we want!”
The fall schedule follows, and stick around later for analysis:
(New shows in CAPS; all times ET/PT.)
8 p.m.: How I Met Your Mother
8:30 p.m.: 2 BROKE GIRLS
9 p.m.: Two And A Half Men
9:30 p.m.: Mike & Molly
10 p.m.: Hawaii Five-0
8 p.m.: NCIS
9 p.m.: NCIS: Los Angeles
10 p.m.: UNFORGETTABLE
8 p.m.: Survivor: South Pacific
9 p.m.: Criminal Minds
10 p.m.: C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation
8 p.m.: The Big Bang Theory
8:30 p.m.: HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN
9 p.m.: PERSON OF INTEREST
10 p.m.: The Mentalist
8 p.m.: A GIFTED MAN
9 p.m.: C.S.I: NY
10 p.m.: Blue Bloods
8 p.m.: Rules Of Engagement
8:30 p.m.: Comedytime Saturday
9 p.m.: Crimetime Saturday
10 p.m.: 48 Hours Mystery
7 p.m.: 60 Minutes
8 p.m.: The Amazing Race
9 p.m.: The Good Wife
10 p.m.: C.S.I: Miami
Midseason: The 2-2
And now, night-by-night analysis:
How I Met Your Mother seems to get more popular the older it gets (though the show has struggled since Two And A Half Men stopped producing new episodes), so it begins its seventh season to lead off the night. It’s followed by the fall’s best comedy script, the multi-camera comedy 2 Broke Girls, starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as two girls working in a diner who may not exactly be the most affluent people around. CBS clearly enjoys the number “two,” since Two And A Half Men (now with 72 percent more Ashton Kutcher fever) follows, though that show spells out “Two” while 2 Broke Girls prefers the numeral, clearly because young people are too busy texting and don’t have the time for two extra characters or something. (CBS doesn’t know. It tried to send one of those text message thingys to the wife at the store asking for more adult diapers, but it couldn’t figure out how to type, so it had to drive there itself. Scared the hell out of her when it turned up in the canned fruit aisle, pants around its ankles, murmuring about beans.) The night rounds out with two series entering their second seasons (man, this secondsies is writing itself), Mike & Molly and Hawaii Five-0, neither of which performed incredibly but still performed better than most of the other stuff the networks shoveled on the air last fall.
There were rumors NCIS: Los Angeles, usually a top 20 hit, might head off for another night, but CBS evidently decided to leave it where it was. Instead, The Good Wife took flight for Sundays, meaning that NCIS and its spinoff lead into Poppy Montgomery’s new series Unforgettable, a crime procedural about a woman who solves crimes by remembering things really hard. No. Really. (OK, she has a rare condition that lets her remember everything that happens to her, so this is yet another CBS crime procedural where some sort of mental condition is used for good—crime-solving—and not evil—making sure you pick up the adult diapers at the store.) The pilot, previously known as The Rememberer, switched to the new name when that became obvious as a joke title and when everybody realized just how hard “rememberer” is to say and just how much the very idea of being able to remember things insults the network’s core audience. (CBS used to be able to remember things. Like being able to remember to let the cat out of the oven.)
Survivor and Criminal Minds stay put, since they worked fairly well together this season. (The Criminal Minds spinoff, incidentally, was the last cancellation made by CBS, canceled Tuesday in favor of C.S.I.: NY.) The night concludes with the original C.S.I., which finds itself out of the 9 p.m. Thursdays slot it has occupied since early 2001, marking just over 10 years in the time slot. The series, which has lost steam in recent years but is still a big hit, will now fill an hour CBS has had problems with this season (trying The Defenders, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior there), in the hopes that enough members of its core audience will be able to figure out that their favorite show has moved and won’t just spend Thursday nights at 9 mashing buttons on the remote in futility and howling maniacally. (Their cries of fury will be unheard by CBS, which really asks you to speak up, dearie.)
The move of The Big Bang Theory to this slot worked so well last year that the network has put its most buzzed-about new drama pilot at 9, scoffing at the idea that aging series Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, and Bones will still be “hits” next fall. (This kind of “fuck you” move is exactly why CBS is number one. Also, most of its audience doesn’t even know the TV is still on.) Big Bang remains at 8, followed by the new comedy How To Be A Gentleman, which boasts a great cast (Dave Foley! Mary Lynn Rajskub! David Hornsby! Kevin Dillon?) and a twist on the old Odd Couple premise, with an uptight columnist and a manly, unrefined he-man hanging out together because it’s TV, and that’s what people do when they’re on TV shows. We expect either witty repartee or lots and lots of nut shots. And, since it's just the latest comedy about how fucking tough it is to be a man nowadays, we expect lots of mourning for when you could belch wherever you wanted and people had to LIKE IT.
The network has placed Person Of Interest, J.J. Abrams’ attempt to do for the crime procedural genre what he did for science fiction series on Felicity, at 9 p.m., booting C.S.I. to Wednesdays and sending those who watch the network into paroxysms of grief. Jonathan Nolan scripted the pilot, which stars Jim Caviezel as a former CIA agent long suspected dead and Michael Emerson as an eccentric billionaire (because that’s what you hire Emerson to play). The two try to stop crimes before they happen by identifying the (insert title name here), but it’s anybody’s guess how the fuck they think they’re going to do this without three bald psychics in a tank and a complicated system of balls rolling every which way. Taraji P. Henson also stars, and we expect the pilot to just be the three stars smugly smiling at the camera while CBS ritually executes all of the competition to ensure the largest possible audience. (CBS used to be able to execute an average of 84 people per day, hitting its personal peak of 142 during the Great War, but in recent years, with hands so gnarled and all this fancy new weaponry, it’s lucky if it can get through five a day. Still, five is all it needs. All it needs.) The night concludes with The Mentalist, as it must.
For months now, CBS has been buzzing about some new medical drama with what sounds like the stupidest premise in the history of the world, and we in the entertainment press have been shrugging and saying, “Whatever,” because we just usually ignore CBS’ insane ramblings about how much better it was when Chester “The Gentleman Boss” Arthur was president and men wore hats, but now it’s on the schedule, and we have to deal with it. Starring Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Ehle, and featuring a pilot directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme(!) and written by Oscar nominee Susannah Grant, A Gifted Man is about a doctor whose dead wife starts appearing to him as a ghost, like you do, and getting him all involved in taking care of poor people or whatever (so it’s sort of like Everwood, minus the small town charm and family drama elements, plus a ghost). The series also stars Julie Benz as the person Wilson will clearly move on with (unless she’s his sister; we haven’t checked) and Margo Martindale, bringing to “two” the list of awesome guest stars in this latest awesome season of Justified who’ve landed cushy network gigs. (Kaitlyn Dever’s over on ABC's Last Man Standing, and just as we’re going to pretend Loretta McCready is starring on that show, we’re going to pretend Martindale is just playing the ghost of Mags Bennett and Wilson doesn’t even know he’s seeing a ghost.) The night concludes with C.S.I.: NY and Blue Bloods, which was surprisingly popular on Fridays, when the older women are bewitched by Tom Selleck’s powerful mustache.
Because CBS’ core audience of old people and Seventh Day Adventists is home on Saturday nights, it makes the most sense for it to be the network to dip its toes into the original scripted programming on Saturdays thing, particularly with a cheap-to-produce multi-camera sitcom like Rules Of Engagement (which has been on the air for five seasons, yet hasn’t hit 100 episodes yet because CBS just orders it to throw it in shitty time slots and see what happens, like a weak but curiously long-lasting mutt a South American dictator keeps around just to throw into more and more perilous situations). The rest of the night involves the usual repeats and 48 Hours Mystery. (The real mystery is where CBS just pooped. We can SMELL it, but we can’t find it. Didn’t you get the fucking… sorry fricking… adult diapers, Mom?)
60 Minutes has been here for years, and it will be here long after all of us are gone from the Earth (even as CBS strides the Pacific Rim, a colossus on stilts), so expect another fall of people occasionally posting YouTube videos of Andy Rooney ranting about green peppers or going to the doctor or how he can’t get anything in the Humor In Uniform section of Readers Digest, accompanied by many, many, many YouTube commenters saying, “WTF?” and arguing about race. The Amazing Race, now in its 19th iteration, follows, and then the network makes another big move, taking the critically beloved but old-person-skewing The Good Wife (which is bigger than Jesus or something, I heard) and putting it on at 9 p.m. to take on the aging, ailing Desperate Housewives, football, and, uh, Family Guy (which should worry about the overlap in its audience among hardcore Christine Baranski fans). If it works and delivers the show a younger audience, it will probably run for years and years, whereas if it fails, CBS will probably keep renewing it because rich people watch it. The night closes out with CSI: Miami, and CBS doesn’t think it looks cute when you put those sunglasses on it while its taking its 2 p.m. nap, then scream “YEEEEEAAAAHHHH!” and wake it up while it’s dreaming about a childhood spent among the Mongol horde. That’s probably why it inappropriately shits so much, ya dick.
And now, for the next-to-last time, show descriptions, directly from the network. Clips will be posted this afternoon.
UNFORGETTABLE: stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy, and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind. It's not just that she doesn't forget anything; she can't, except for one thing: the details that would help solve her sister's long-ago murder. Carrie has tried to put her past behind her, but she's unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), when she consults on a homicide case. His squad includes Det. Mike Costello (Michael Gaston), Al's right-hand man; Detective Roe Saunders (Kevin Rankin), the junior member of the team; and Detective Nina Inara (Daya Vaidya), a sassy, street-smart cop. Being back on the job after a break feels surprisingly right for Carrie. Despite her conflicted feelings for Al, she decides to permanently join his unit as a detective solving homicides, most notably, the unsolved murder of her sister. All she needs to do is remember. Ed Redlich, John Bellucci, Sarah Timberman, and Carl Beverly are executive producers for Sony Television Studios in association with CBS Television Studios.
PERSON OF INTEREST: stars Jim Caviezel, Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson, and Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson in a crime thriller about a presumed dead former-CIA agent who teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes by using their own brand of vigilante justice. Reese's (Caviezel) special training in covert operations appeals to Finch (Emerson), a software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. Using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the two work outside of the law using Reese's adept skills and Finch's unlimited wealth to unravel the mystery of the person of interest and stop the crime before it happens. Reese's actions catch the attention of the NYPD, including homicide detective Carter (Henson), and Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a cop whom Reese uses to his advantage. With infinite crimes to investigate, Reese and Finch find that the right person, with the right information, at the right time, can change everything. Emmy Award winners J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk (Lost), Academy Award nominee Jonathan Nolan (Memento), David Semel (Heroes), and Greg Plageman (Cold Case) are the executive producers for Warner Bros. Television.
A GIFTED MAN: is a drama about a brilliant, charismatic surgeon whose life changes forever when his deceased ex-wife begins teaching him the meaning of life from the hereafter. Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is an exceptional doctor who lives a materialistic life of luxury thanks to his work-obsessed career and powerful and wealthy patients; however, Michael's ordered world is rocked when his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), an idealistic free-clinic doctor and the love of his life, mysteriously appears to him. Michael's off-beat sister (well I'll be damned—ed.), Christina (Julie Benz), a single mom to her teenaged son, Milo (Liam Aiken), is thrilled that Anna's back in her brother's life, even as an illusion, because Michael was always a better person with her. Curious about Michael's sudden change in behavior is his efficient assistant, Rita (Margo Martindale). When Anna asks Michael to go to her clinic to help keep it running, he meets Autumn (Afton Williamson), a volunteer carrying on Anna's work with the underprivileged (OK, here's our love interest; false alarm on Benz, everyone!—ed.). Touched by those in need and accepting of Anna's compassionate presence, Michael's attitude toward serving the rich and poor is turned upside down, and he begins to see that there's room in his life for everyone. Academy Award nominee Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Neal Baer (ER) are executive producers for CBS Television Studios.
THE 2-2: follows six diverse NYPD rookies as they patrol the gritty streets of upper Manhattan. The new trainees include Jennifer "White House" Perry (Leelee Sobieski), a former college volleyball star and Marine MP in Iraq with a take-charge attitude; Ray "Lazarus" Harper (Adam Goldberg), the oldest rookie and a former police news reporter with better sources than many seasoned cops; Tonya Sanchez (Judy Marte), who comes from a family with a criminal history and has a very personal connection inside the force; Ahmad "Kiterunner Kahn" (Tom Reed), an Afghani native who fought his way to freedom; Kenny McClaren (Stark Sands), a fourth-generation police officer with great instincts but qualms about joining the force; and Jayson Toney (Harold House Moore), a young basketball legend who squandered his opportunity in the NBA. Their demanding Field Training Officer, Daniel "Yoda" Dean (Terry Kinney), is a case-hardened, unsentimental veteran of the force who emphasizes basics and holds each cop accountable for their actions. With unique backgrounds, personalities, and reasons for being on the force, the new cops will make their share of rookie mistakes while they figure out how to relate to their boss, each other and to the people they swore to protect. Two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II, Raging Bull), Jane Rosenthal (Meet the Parents), Academy Award nominee Richard Price (The Color of Money), Ken Sanzel (Numb3rs), and James Mangold (Walk the Line) are executive producers for CBS Television Studios in association with Tribeca Productions. The pilot was directed by Mangold.
2 BROKE GIRLS: is a comedy about two young women waitressing at a greasy spoon diner who strike up an unlikely friendship in the hopes of launching a successful business, if only they can raise the cash. Sassy, streetwise Max (Kat Dennings) works two jobs just to get by, one of which is waiting tables during the night shift at the retro-hip Williamsburg Diner. Sophisticated Caroline (Beth Behrs) is an uptown trust fund princess who's having a run of bad luck that forces her to reluctantly give waitressing a shot. At first, Max sees Caroline as yet another in a long line of inept servers she must cover for, but she's surprised to find that Caroline has as much substance as she does style. When Caroline discovers Max's knack for baking amazing cupcakes, she sees a lucrative future for them, but they first need to raise the start-up money. While they save their tips, they'll stay at the restaurant, working with Oleg (Jonathan Kite), an overly flirtatious Russian cook; Earl (Garrett Morris), a 75-year-old kool-kat cashier; and Han Lee (Matthew Moy), the new, eager-to-please owner of the diner. Working together, these two broke girls living in one expensive city might just find the perfect recipe for their big break. Michael Patrick King (Sex And The City) and writer-comedian Whitney Cummings (Chelsea Lately) are executive producers for Warner Bros. Television.
HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN: inspired by the book of the same name, is a comedy about the unlikely friendship between a traditional, refined writer and an unrefined personal trainer. Andrew Carlson (David Hornsby) is an etiquette columnist whose devotion to ideals from a more civilized time has lead to a life detached from modern society. Infectiously optimistic Bert Lansing (Kevin Dillon) is a reformed bad boy from Andrew's past who inherited a fitness center but can still be rude, loud and sloppy. When Andrew's editor, Jerry (Dave Foley), tells him to put a modern, sexy twist on his column or be fired, he hires Bert as a life coach in the hopes of learning to be less gentle man and more real man. Andrew's mom, Diane (Nancy Lenehan), and his bossy sister, Janet (Mary Lynn Rajskub), support the plan, as would Janet's husband, Mike (Rhys Darby), if he was allowed to have an opinion. Though Andrew and Bert's views may be centuries apart, they may find they're each other's missing link. David Hornsby (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Adam Chase (Friends), Ted Schachter (The Invention of Lying), Joe Hipps, and Modi Wiczyk are executive producers for CBS Television Studios.