Sunday, May 24, 2009

CBS’s 2009 Upfronts

(I'm slowly getting through the upfront stuff, a lot slower than I had anticipated and normally do it, but the past few day's I've been dealing with a series of all-day nasty headaches. I'm not nice when I have this sort of headache – I usually .)just want to sleep.

Here's what CBS is planning for the coming season.

Cancelled: The Ex-List, Without a Trace, The Unit, Harper's Island, Eleventh Hour, Worst Week, Game Show In My Head.

Renewed: The Amazing Race, Survivor, Two and a Half Men, Ghost Whisperer, Criminal Minds, CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, NCIS, Numb3rs, Gary Unmarried, New Adventures of Old Christine.

Moved: The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, The Mentalist, Cold Case.

New Shows: Accidentally On Purpose, The Good Wife, NCIS: Los Angeles, Three Rivers, The Medium (picked up from NBC).

Not Yet Scheduled: Rules of Engagement, Flashpoint, Arranged Marriage, The Bridge, Miami Trauma, Undercover Boss.

Complete Schedule

8:00-8:30 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 Big Bang Theory
10:00-11:00 p.m. CSI: Miami

8:00-9:00 p.m. NCIS

9:00-10:00 p.m. NCIS: LOS ANGELES
10:00-11:00 p.m. THE GOOD WIFE

8:00-8:30 p.m. New Adventures of Old Christine

8:30-9:00 p.m. Gary Unmarried
9:00-10:00 p.m. Criminal Minds
10:00-11:00 p.m. CSI: NY

8:00-9:00 p.m. Survivor
9:00-10:00 p.m. CSI
10:00-11:00 p.m. The Mentalist

8:00-9:00 p.m. Ghost Whisperer
9:00-10:00 p.m. MEDIUM
10:00-11:00 p.m. Numb3rs

7:00-8:00 p.m. 60 Minutes
8:00-9:00 p.m. The Amazing Race
9:00-10:00 p.m. THREE RIVERS
10:00-11:00 p.m. Cold Case

Accidentally On Purpose is the story of Billie (Jenna Elrman), a newspaper film critic who finds herself pregnant after a one night stand. She decides to keep the baby and the "boy toy" who is the father (Jon Foster). They decide to live together platonically but Billie isn't sure whether she's got a boyfriend, a roommate or a second child to raise, particularly when his freeloading friends come around. Also stars David Show, Ashley Jensen, Lennon Parham and Nicolas Wright.

The Good Wife stars Julianna Margullies as a woman whose life collapses when her politician husband (Chris Noth) is jailed amidst stories of sexual improprieties and political corruption. She returns to her own career as a lawyer at a prestigious Chicago firm, but its been thirteen years since she's been in a courtroom. She finds herself in competition with people half her age for the one associate position with the firm. She does all of this to provide a stable home for her two teen age children. Also stars Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, and Archie Panjabi. Producers are Tony and Ridley Scott.

NCIS: Los Angeles is a spin-off from the original NCIS focussing on NCIS's Office of Special Projects, a branch of NCIS that is involved in undercover surveillance. Stars Chris O'Donell, LL Cool J, and Louise Lombard.

Three Rivers looks at the organ donation process from the perspective of the three groups concerned – the families of the organ donors, the transplant doctors, and the transplant recipients. The only permanent cast members are of course the members of the transplant team at one of the most prestigious transplant hospitals in the country. Cast includes Alex O'Loughlin, Katherine Moennig, Daniel Henney, Julia Ormond, and Christopher J. Hanke.

Arranged Marriage is a reality show that looks at three adults who decide for a variety of reason to allow friends and family to arrange marriages for them. The show follows them from the first meeting with the partners who have been selected for them and through the marriage to the day to day problems of married life.

The Bridge is a Canadian made show from CTV, which also created Flashpoint. Aaron Douglas (from Battlestar Galactica) stars as Frank Leo, the new head of the police union. His work as a cop forces him to bridge the gap between rich and poor in the area they patrol, while his position as union head forces him to bridge the gap between the cops on the streets and the department brass, many of whom have their own political agendas. Also stars Paul Popowich, Frank Cassini, Michael Murphy and Ona Grauer.

Miami Trauma moves Jerry Bruckheimer away from the world of forensics and police procedurals. In Miami Trauma, Bruckheimer goes into the world of emergency medicine with a team of surgeons of varying degrees of experience and different personalities but who excel at the so-called "golden hour" when a trauma patient's life hangs in the balance. Stars Jeremy Northam, Lana Parrilla, Elisabeth Harnois and Omar Gooding.

Undercover Boss is another reality series, and like Shark Tank is
another series taken from a foreign original, this time British. In this series high level corporate executives take low level positions in their own companies to get a real sense of problems that their companies face and how their workers are actually being treated. There's no indication of how long the American executives will stay as low level employees; in the British version of the show they had to spend ten days in their temporary positions.


CBS has made several interesting moves in their schedule that I'm not entirely sure of. Moving The Mentalist to Thursday night following CSI from Tuesday following NCIS is both a testament to the show's break-out performance in the past season and a bit of a puzzle in that they're putting a lot of eggs in one basket. My guess is that with Leno taking over the third hour for NBC, CBS is aiming for a show that can deliver a knockout punch against ABC's Private Practice. Bringing Medium over from NBC is another move that some are finding controversial. I've seen Medium described as dying show based on its NBC ratings, and when CBS described NBC's failure to pick up the show as "indefensible" because it had higher ratings than some NBC shows that were renewed (including Chuck which was – rightly – the subject to so much effort to get it brought back) NBC countered by saying that the series was lower rated than some of the shows that CBS cancelled. One of those shows was Eleventh Hour which was a show that I loved but one where the cancellation wasn't a surprise, just frustrating. I have a suspicion that when the ratings for the full year come out Eleventh Hour – which frequently finished 13th in overall viewers – will probably be the highest rated show cancelled this season (yes, above Without A Trace). And yet anyone who reads Marc Berman's Programming Insider forums knows that the "numbers heads" (as I call them) there were demanding that the show be cancelled practically from the time it debuted because it didn't do well in the 18-49 demographic – though it was improving – and had poor retention out of CSI. I'll mourn Eleventh Hour but I do see the merits of putting Medium on the network and putting it on Friday night when the 18-49 demographic is arguably less important than it is on other nights.

Looking at the new shows I think there isn't much that really stand out. I'm not entirely sure that moving Big Bang Theory out of the first half hour of prime time and moving How I Met Your Mother will necessarily help Accidentally On Purpose. This show is going to rise and fall on how much people like and accept Jenna Elfman in this role, because the show doesn't seem overly original. The description of the show reminds me a lot of the Katherine Heigl-Seth Rogen movie Knocked Up and the clip that I've seen doesn't disabuse me of that notion.

Turning to the dramas, my one concern with NCIS: Los Angeles is that they've decided to use it to follow the original NCIS. The problem is of course that looking at the CBS schedule I can't think of anywhere else to put the show except maybe following The Amazing Race. Does it really fit to have a show that is going to deal with global terrorism follow a show that deals with global travel? Three Rivers, with its dramatic emphasis on saving lives probably works better. Finally there is The Good Wife. I'm pretty much convinced that if NBC had continued to program the third hour of prime time rather than turn it over to Jay Leno, CBS would have retained Without A Trace. As it stands the new Julianna Margulies series will be facing up against a relatively routine procedural (The Forgotten).

CBS looks set to be the dominant network – at least in terms of total audience numbers if not in the 18-49 demographic (let alone the 18-34 demographic which is becoming more important for some advertisers) – this year. The network has admirable "bench-strength" and could arguably have retained all of their 2008-09 line-up, replacing only The Ex-List and Worst Week. That said, there's nothing particularly bad about the new line-up either. The problem is that while there's nothing particularly bad about it I really can't say that there's anything particularly outstanding about it either. It's a nice safe, unchallenging line-up. It's going to work, and I'm betting that few of these shows are going to be cancelled before the end of the season. I just don't think that it's a line-up that will set the world on fire either.

No comments: