Worst Week by Chris Haston/NBC Universal/CBS
Comedy is hard for network TV these days. But CBS thinks it's worth it. The network's big move for the 2008-09 season is to start a new sitcom block on Wednesday night. Encouraged by the strong post-strike ratings performance of its Monday line-up, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler wants to see if The New Adventures of Old Christine can stand on its own at 8 pm on the night. The payoff could be big. Advertisers like sitcoms. They skew younger than most dramas. Their content is less problematic. Unlike serialized dramas, they can be repeated. And there are not a whole lot of them on in network prime time anymore.

Can Christine cut it? Let's put it this way - the bar is pretty low. CBS started this season with Kid Nation, which was delivering less than a 2 rating in the advertiser-coveted demo of viewers aged 18-to-49. If Christine can do a 2-and-change, and the new comedy Project Gary can hold onto most of those viewers at 8:30, CBS will be ahead of the game. If either of the shows falters the network has another known quantity, Rules Of Engagement, to put in the hour.

CBS gave its strongest new sitcom, Worst Week, the 9:30 time slot after Two and a Half Men. While single-camera comedies have never worked on CBS, Week depends on over-the-top visual gags. The clips went over big with the Carnegie Hall audience at CBS's upfront presentation on Wednesday.

The network could also see a net gain on Tuesday with the move of the durable Without A Trace to Tuesday at 10. Jerry Bruckheimer's new show Eleventh Hour is it bit on the dark side, but should work after CSI on Thursdays. And give CBS credit for not caving into the rabid (but small) group of fans who clamored for the return of Moonlight. Will its replacement The Ex List do much better on Friday at 9? Who knows? But broadcast networks will niche themselves out of existence if they stick with shows that have limited appeal instead of taking as many shots as they can at creating big hits.

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