For a network that preaches stability, CBS is giving its schedule an eye-popping shake-up, adding seven new shows and moving established hits The King of Queens and JAG to new nights. Not surprisingly, CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves downplays the risk of audience confusion the moves may cause. "Viewers have a hard time keeping up no matter what you do there's already a lot of confusion," he says. "But when some of the shows you move are already appointment viewing, their fans will move with them."
Still, the network will have to maneuver a tough road next fall, especially given that five of its new shows are dramas, two of which will face off against some of the most popular shows on primetime. Look for CBS to have more success with its two new comedies, Two and a Half Men and The Stones, both of which will follow established hits. Here's a night-by-night analysis:
Because Monday is traditionally a strong night for CBS, the network felt confident enough to move The King of Queens from its 8 pm leadoff spot to Wednesdays at 9. Replacing it will be Yes, Dear, followed by second-year comedy Still Standing at 8:30. Everybody Loves Raymond remains in its traditional 9 pm spot, followed by the network's most promising new comedy, Two and Half Men. Starring Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer and Blythe Danner, it's about a wealthy Malibu bachelor (Sheen) whose swinging single life gets turned upside down when his younger brother (Cryer) and son move in with him. Early buzz on the show from the media buying community has been strong. Moonves calls it "by far our strongest [new] comedy." CSI: Miami, last season's breakout hit, will stay put at 10.
Navy CIS, a JAG spin-off staring Mark Harmon, moves into JAG's former slot at 8. "This was a no-brainer," says Moonves. "It's where the JAG fans are, and the fact that the title sounds a little like CSI is not necessarily a bad thing." The Guardian returns at 9. Judging Amy will have a tough go at 10, competing not only against NYPD Blue but Law & Order: SVU, which NBC has moved to Tuesdays.
This is probably the network's most challenging night. It kicks off with 60 Minutes II at 8, followed by The King of Queens in its new 9 pm slot. Then, it's The Stones, a freshmen comedy from the creative team behind Will & Grace. Featuring Robert Klein and Judith Light, it involves two divorcing parents whose twentysomething kids move back in with them. (NBC is tapping a similar vein with the John Larroquette and Christine Baranski comedy Happy Family). "We'll do better in this time period then we [did last season]," predicts Moonves, who says NBC's The West Wing and ABC's The Bachelor are vulnerable. Others aren't so sure. "Watch, they'll have Amazing Race back in the slot by the November sweeps," says one veteran media buyer. CBS caps off the night at 10 with The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H. Created by David E. Kelley (The Practice, Boston Public), the drama is about three brothers in a small New Hampshire town. "It's more similar to Picket Fences than anything Kelley has done in a while," says Moonves. "It's our way to attack Law & Order, which clearly is a tough competitor." You can say that again. Kelley's last two series Snoops and Girls Club were flops, so figure Brotherhood to be a long shot.
CBS will stay pat with Survivor, CSI and Without a Trace, the first-year drama that made some inroads against ER last season. And in a bold move, the network has decided to schedule Survivor's much-anticipated all-star edition in the Spring pitting it against the final months of Friends.
The night opens up with Joan of Arcadia, created by Judging Amy executive producer Barbara Hall. It's a drama about a small-town teenage girl (played by General Hospital grad Amber Tamblyn) who has regular conversations with God. Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen play her parents. This is not Touched by an Angel, says Moonves. "It's a family drama with a twist." Uh-huh. JAG, in its new 9 pm slot, should give CBS some momentum to launch its latest cop show, The Handler. Starring Joe Pantoliano (who, as Ralphie, lost his head in The Sopranos), the series involves a Mission: Impossible-style undercover team. "With Law & Order: SVU moving (Boomtown replaces it on NBC's Friday schedule), we think we can do some business there," says Moonves.
Transplanted 48 Hours (moving from Friday) starts the night, followed at 9 by cabbie drama Hack, another Friday refugee. Moonves promises Hack will "not be as dark and brooding" in its second season. The District returns at 10. Please, contain your excitement.
Following 60 Minutes at 7, CBS will launch Cold Case, yet another cop procedural show. "For those of you who like CSI, it will appeal to you,'" says Moonves. "To those of you who liked Murder She Wrote, it will appeal to you, too." Created by the same team behind CSI and Without a Trace, Cold Case stars Kathyrn Morris (Minority Report) as the lone female detective on a Philadelphia homicide squad. The network is sticking with the CBS Sunday Movie at 9. "We don't see anything that scares us on Sunday," says Moonves. "We'll see how Rob Lowe does [in the new 10 pm NBC drama Lyon's Den] without the rest of the cast of The West Wing."