Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Upfronts 2015: Not your grandmother’s CBS

Melissa Benoist in Supergirl
Melissa Benoist in Supergirl

Speaking yesterday from a giant viewscreen suspended above the UN General Assembly Hall, ABC boss/likely owner of a secret volcano lair Paul Lee was insistent that his network’s fall lineup belonged to no one’s parents or grandparents. “This is not your grandmother’s Muppets,” he said of “grown-up” fur-and-foam mockumentary The Muppets. “This is not your parents’ Bible story,” he said about Of Kings And Prophets. Lee did not extend this line of argument to Uncle Buck, because with a title like that, this could absolutely be your racist grandfather’s Uncle Buck.


With ABC having barred anyone of child-bearing status from watching its new shows, you’d think the last refuge of the old, irrelevant, and the fiercely-protective-of-The Muppet Show would be that good ol’ broadcast equivalent of Geritol, CBS. But you’d be wrong.

The idea of the ‘old fogey network’ should be put away forever,” CBS chief Les Moonves told reporters while unveiling The Eye’s fall schedule this morning. To verify, Moonves and other CBS brass touted the network’s ratings strength among adults under 50, where it wouldn’t have lost to NBC this season if NBC hadn’t broadcast Super Bowl XLIX. But guess who has the rights to the next Super Bowl? That’d be CBS, where the only 50-year-old thing that’s tolerated is an NFL championship game. Demonstrating what billions in professional football bucks can buy, CBS used part of its upfront presentation to show off the world’s biggest NFL-licensed alarm clock.

With an upfront headlined by future Late Show host Stephen Colbert and newly minted Late Late Show star James Corden, CBS strove to shake its image as mandatory viewing in the retirement home and prove that it’s still with it, even though they’ve changed what “it” is. And to prove that it’s serious, the Tiffany Network canceled the original CSI (Not to worry, forensic-procedural fans: “Most of my show will be me solving crimes by zooming in on pubic hairs,” Colbert says of the new Late Show), and ordered no new new multi-camera sitcoms, keeping a large chunk of its “live before a studio audience” inventory (and Person Of Interest, plus new series Rush Hour and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) on the shelf for midseason.

As is typical of this time of year, the most-watched network in the country didn’t have to order many new series, losing only two freshman—Stalker and The McCarthys—from its 2014-15 class. So while the spin coming from CBS today is all “fresh,” “hip,” and “young,” there’s really not much room on the schedule grid for any of those adjectives. Or room for comedy on Monday, which brings us to the schedule breakdown. (New series in bold.)


8 p.m.: The Big Bang Theory (September-November)

8 p.m. Supergirl (November)

8:30 p.m.: Life In Pieces (September-November)

9 p.m.: Scorpion

10 p.m.: NCIS: Los Angeles

This is where Moonves and company could stand strongest on a “not your grandmother’s” claim, because your grandmother, your mother, and your own children have all grown up in a world where CBS programs comedy on Mondays. Last year, the network nixed comedy at 9 for the first time since the heyday of I Love Lucy and The Danny Thomas Show. This year, once The Big Bang Theory and Life In Pieces decamp to Thursdays (following the conclusion of the network’s Thursday Night Football broadcasts), CBS’ Monday night lineup will feature no comedies for the first fall since CBS’ first fall with a Monday night lineup, which was 1949.


Crash-landing in this brave, new, laughter-less world is the much-anticipated Supergirl, CBS’ addition to the growing ranks of DC Comics adaptations on TV. Readers who share Kara Zor-El’s keen eyesight (which this version, like her cousin Kal-El, expertly disguises with a pair of chunky eyeglasses) will notice that 8 p.m. on Mondays is also when Fox airs its own DC show. “I haven’t seen a cape on Gotham,” CBS Primetime senior executive VP Kelly Kahl said of Supergirl this morning, thus striking the first blow in the battle of Superman family v. Batman. This Supergirl has a cape—and a Jimmy Olsen (please: “James Olsen”—this is a grown-up version of Superman’s pal) and a former Ally McBeal.


8 p.m.: NCIS

9 p.m.: NCIS: New Orleans

10 p.m.: Limitless

Once upon a time, “limitless” referred to the amount of NCIS CBS could schedule. Now it also applies to one of the many big-screen-to-small-screen shows coming to the networks this fall, this one an extension of that movie where Bradley Cooper takes a pill to access the 80 percent of his brain that pop culture is always telling him he can’t access. The bounds of his ethical compromises since becoming limitless, Cooper’s character is now some sort of pusher for NZT-48, passing a pill to Greek’s Jake McDorman and setting up his future as a hyper-intelligent, drug-powered consultant to a law-enforcement agency. So Sherlock Holmes, basically—only a Sherlock Holmes… without limits (within the limits of broadcast standards and practices, at least).


8 p.m.: Survivor

9 p.m.: Criminal Minds

10 p.m.: Code Black

As if to respond to the deafening volley of “That’s still on?” prompted by Grey’s Anatomy’s most recent cast-member execution, this fall features a glut of new medical dramas. In content, CBS’ contribution to that glut bears the closest resemblance to Shonda Rhimes’ decade-old warhorse: The main members of its ensemble are all residents, working in the busiest ER in the country. And with all that jumpy camerawork (the series is based on a documentary) and the specifically highlighted text at the beginning of the trailer (“IN THE ER”) someone’s clearly hoping viewers make a connection between Code Black and the previous standard-bearer for long-running, high-tension hospital drama. If not, perhaps you’d settle for a new Chicago Hope?


8 p.m.: Thursday Night Football (September-November)

8 p.m.: The Big Bang Theory (November)

8:30 p.m.: Life In Pieces (November)

9 p.m.: Mom

9:30 p.m.: Angel From Hell

10 p.m.: Elementary

Single-camera comedy has had a spotty track record at CBS in recent years: Bad Teacher, We Are Men, and The Crazy Ones all failed to reach a second season, despite lead-in support from some of the network’s strongest shows. It didn’t work for those shows, but why can’t Life In Pieces and Angel From Hell be different? Family comedy Life In Pieces—which looks like Modern Family without the confessionals, with a pilot directed by Modern Family’s Jason Winer—gets the most solid comedy lead-in in television, while rising star Mom sets up a different mix of abrasion and heart: Angel From Hell, starring Jane Lynch and Maggie Lawson.


8 p.m.: The Amazing Race

9 p.m.: Hawaii Five-O

10 p.m.: Blue Bloods


8 p.m. Crimetime Saturday

10 p.m. 48 Hours


7 60 Minutes

8 p.m. Madam Secretary

9 p.m. The Good Wife

10 p.m. CSI: Cyber