Thursday, May 15, 2008

CBS's Fall 2008

Here's what CBS has done with its schedule. Of all the networks this is likely the one with the least need to be adjused short of some slight tinkering.

Cancelled: Shark, Moonlight, Cane, Kid Nation, Power of 10, Secret Talents of the Stars, Viva Laughlin, Welcome to the Captain

Renewed: Survivor, 48 Hours Mystery, 60 Minutes, CSI, CSI Miami, CSI New York, Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer, How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, Numb3rs, Two and a Half Men, Cold Case, Big Bang Theory, The Amazing Race.

Moved: The Unit, New Adventures of Old Christine, Without A Trace,

New: The Worst Week, The Mentalist, Project Gary, Eleventh Hour

In addition Rules Of Engagement and new series Harper's Island will be held for the midseason.

Complete Schedule: (New shows in Capitals, except NCIS)
8:00-8:30 p.m. The Big Bang Theory
8:30-9:00 p.m. How I Met Your Mother
9:00-9:30 p.m. Two And A Half Men
9:30-10:00 p.m. THE WORST WEEK
10:00-11:00 p.m. CSI: Miami

8:00-9:00 p.m. NCIS
9:00-10:00 p.m. THE MENTALIST
10:00-11:00 p.m. Without A Trace (Moved)

8:00-8:30 p.m. New Adventures of Old Christine
8:30-9:00 p.m. PROJECT GARY
9:00-10:00 p.m. Criminal Minds
10:00-11:00 p.m. CSI: New York

8:00-9:00 p.m. Survivor
9:00-10:00 p.m. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
10:00-11:00 p.m. ELEVENTH HOUR


8:00-9:00 p.m. Ghost Whisperer
9:00-10:00 p.m. THE EX-LIST
10:00-11:00 p.m. Numb3rs


8:00-9:00 p.m. Crimetime Saturday
9:00-10:00 p.m. Crimetime Saturday
10:00-11:00 p.m. 48 Hours: Mystery


7:00-8:00 p.m. 60 Minutes
8:00-9:00 p.m. The Amazing Race
9:00-10:00 p.m. Cold Case
10:00-11:00 p.m. The Unit (Moved)

Based on a British series, The Worst Week is a comedy about a young man, Sam (Kyle Bornheimer) who is meeting the parents of his fiancé Mel (Erinn Hayes, Kitchen Confidential) for the first time. Sam not only has to deal with Mel's conservative parents (Kurtwood Smith, That '70s Show, and Nancy Lenehan, My Name is Earl) and informing them that not only is there a wedding being planned, but the bride is expecting. Matt Tarses (Scrubs) and Jimmy Mulville (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) are the Executive Producers.

In Project Gary, Jay Mohr stars as Gary Barnes, a recently divorced painting contractor. Gary not only has to deal with his relationship with his ex-wife Allison (Paula Marshall Nip/Tuck) and their kids, played by Laura Marano and Ryan Malgarini, but also his own re-entry into the dating stream after he connects with a Vanessa (Jaime King, The Class) a single mom whose condo he was hired to paint.

The Mentalist stars Simon Baker (The Guardian) as Patrick Jane, a detective who is also a private contractor for the California Bureau of Investigations. At one time Patrick used his highly developed observation skills to gain celebrity status as a psychic medium, something he now admits was faked. This doesn't exactly endear him to the people he works with at the CBI, particularly Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney, Prison Break).

Eleventh Hour is yet another American version of a British series, this time brought to us by CBS's favourite producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Rufus Sewell (Alexander Hamilton in the recent HBO mini-series John Adams) plays Jacob Hood, a special scientific advisor to the government who investigates scientific crises and oddities. His authority is absolute, and he is dogged in his pursuit of those who would use and misuse scientific discoveries for their own gain and with nefarious motives.

The Ex-List is about Bella (Elizabeth Reaser, Grey's Anatomy) a thirty-something woman who is single and successful. She is surprised when a psychic at her sister's bachelorette party tells her that she has already met and dated her future husband, but that if she doesn't find him within the next year she'll end up never marrying. The result is that Bella is forced to re-examine her various relationships over the years together with her circle of friends; Augie (Adam Rothenberg), Vivian (Alex Breckenridge, Dirt), and Cyrus (Amir Talai). Diane Ruggiero (Veronica Mars) and Jonathan Levin (Charmed) are executive producers.

Harper's Island is a drama about a group of friends and family attending a "destination wedding" at a secluded island of the coast of Seattle, an island infamous for a rampage by a homicidal maniac several years ago.


There are a couple of rather interesting things to talk about before we look at the new shows. First up, you might notice the absence of any new reality shows. Oh sure, CBS still has two reality shows on the list but they're both veteran series, and in the case of The Amazing Race, the gold standard of the format (in my opinion). The second thing is that after a number of years CBS is trying to create a sitcom beachhead on a second night, something which none of the other networks has tried recently. I also think it's interesting that CBS is trying to resolve their huge problem in the third hour of Tuesday night not by throwing up another sacrificial lamb (like Cane in 2007-08, or Smith in 2006-07) but rather by throwing a successful veteran against Law & Order: SVU. Will it work?

Of the cancellations, the loss of Cane is sadly not a surprise based on the pre-strike ratings and of course the time slot it was in. Similarly the loss of Shark isn't a huge surprise. The show thrived in its first season when it was opposite ER (and following CSI) on Thursday nights, but it withered on Sundays after Without A Trace was restored to the Thursday timeslot. For me the biggest disappointment in the cancellations was Moonlight. Even though I gave the show a negative review at the start of the season, I have to say that the concept grew on me, particularly the difficult relationship between Mick and Beth. By the end of the season I was left wanting more and now I won't be getting it, and I don't think The Ex-List is an adequate substitute.

Turning – as we must – to the actual schedule, I'm not sure how I feel about it. The pairing of New Adventures Of Old Christine with Project Gary seems like a natural pairing, and depending on how the show is presented it could be more than the sort of standard, run of the mill family sitcom. On the other hand the other new sitcom on the CBS line-up sounds like an absolute disaster – and that disaster was called Big Day and aired on ABC. The Worst Week Of My Life, the British series that The Worst Week is based on, ran just six episodes which would seem to fit the finite nature of the show's premise. I mean can you really do twenty or twenty-four half-hours that details a week in this couple's life? And what do you do for a second season?

Of the dramas the one I expect to be the big loser is The Ex-List which vaguely reminds me of a serious version of Emily's Reasons Why Not. I just don't see this show working. I'm also a bit dubious of The Mentalist although it may turn out better than I expect. It seems vaguely like a mix of Medium and Psych with the latter played seriously. The thing it does have going for it is the cast, particularly Simon Baker. There are two shows I'm looking forward to. On is Eleventh Hour which has a major hard Science Fiction vibe to it and unlike many British series it seems sufficiently open-ended that it could sustain a twenty episode season without running out of stories. The other series is the mid-season replacement Harper's Island if the show has a dark and mysterious component which is what they seem to be aiming for.

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