CBS CBS

Whenever CBS unveils a new fall schedule, it's like watching an impressive round of chess, as powerful pieces (of programming) are moved strategically around the board (the prime-time line-up), operating from a position of strength to shore up weak spots and holes on the schedule, proving that an aggressive offense is a great defense against stagnation and decline. (See the full lineup here.)

"What are we going to do this year to make things interesting?" challenged CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, presiding over the shortest, punchiest and — take that, stodgy CBS image! — most energetic upfront presentation to date this week. Highlights: NCIS: LA's LL Cool J led a rap, punctuated by an opera singer's aria, getting the audience on its feet. And 2 Broke Girls' Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs opened the show with a taped comedy bit, serving Tim Tebow, David Letterman and Regis Philbin in their fake diner, then entering Carnegie Hall in person, bearing cupcakes. Super Bowl champ Eli Manning also dropped by, touting this season's big game, airing on CBS this winter.

But back to Tassler's question. CBS is the most traditional, the most stable and in many ways the most formulaic of the broadcast networks. But it has never been the most complacent. They could easily leave successful nights like Monday and Thursday alone, letting those hits stay put indefinitely until they calcify, but that's not their style. Instead, they make things interesting by shaking things up. One of the loudest cage-rattlings involves moving the long-time crowd-pleaser The Mentalist from its dominant perch on Thursdays to Sundays (replacing CSI: Miami, the first of that franchise to be retired). I'm sure I'll be getting mail soon from Mentalist fans wondering if CBS is trying to kill the show, because it's unlikely to pull the same ratings on Sundays, especially during the months of lengthy football overruns. But CBS knows that fact of TV life as well as anyone, and as long as The Mentalist delivers — and there's no reason to expect it won't — it will be fine as long as there's life in the show.

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