NEW YORK — CBS is taking baby steps to reach a younger audience, having stabilized its schedule this season by re-embracing the network’s traditional 25-to-54 age target.
Household ratings are merely flat, compared to declines at ABC and NBC, but the Eye web’s development slate aims to broaden the appeal with new shows like “Brooklyn South,” a Steven Bochco police drama, and “Family Matters,” an ABC staple poached to launch a Friday-night sitcom block aimed more squarely at kids.
“One year ago our strategy was to rebuild our base; now our primary goal is to bring more diversity to CBS,” CBS Entertainment prexy Leslie Moonves said. “We’re not going to abandon our core; we’ve gone down that road before. But we do want to get younger.”
The plan for 1997-98 is to solidify and build three comedy nights, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; uncertain is whether the latter two nights will be programmed with one or two-hour sitcom blocks. There’s also Bryant Gumbel’s newsmagazine, which could replace “48 Hours” on Thursday.
Ad mavens mum
Ad buyers took a wait-and-see attitude, since shows that seem promising on paper don’t always translate into successful pilots. But there seemed to be enthusiasm again for the network’s commitment to build on its tentative gains this season by repeating last year’s expensive star strategy. The new crop of pilots features Tom Selleck and Bob Newhart, and Danny Aiello and Gregory Hines in their first TV series bids.
“The only thing you can really make a judgment on is, is the network spending the bucks to improve their position?” said Paul Schulman, president of Paul Schulman Co. “And you have to come away saying CBS had a totally open, unlimited wallet.”
Comedy pilot orders include:
“Meego” (Miller-Boyett-Warren Prods./Warner Bros.), starring Bronson Pinchot as an alien who becomes a nanny to three kids; “Square One” (Columbia TriStar Television/CBS Prods.), with Gregory Hines as a widower with a 12-year-old son. Both are vying for the 8:30 Friday slot behind “Family Matters,” a pickup from ABC designed to broaden CBS’ kids audience.
“Selleck” (Bungalow 78 Prods./Paramount), starring Tom Selleck as a New York publisher.
“George and Leo” (Paramount), from Dan Staley and Rob Long (“Cheers”), teams Bob Newhart with a yet-to-be-cast co-star as two fathers.
“Ed” (Worldwide Pants/CBS Prods.), from “Late Show” producer Rob Burnett, about a man forced to make a fresh start after losing his job, wife and apartment on the same day.
“Queens” (MTM Television), with Penelope Ann Miller and Illeana Douglas as unlikely friends teamed in Queens, where Miller relocates from Manhattan after her husband (Judge Reinhold) loses his job. James Burrows exec produces.
“Style and Substance” (Touchstone Television), a Martha Stewart parody with Jean Smart. Eyed for the Monday or Wednesday sitcom blocks.
“The Billy Club” (CBS Prods.), with Randy Quaid as an ex-cop who hangs out in a bar.
“Heaven Will Wait” (Warner Bros.), with Olympia Dukakis and Richard Mulligan as retirement village residents.
On the drama front are “Brooklyn South” (Steven Bochco Prods.), a new cop drama and the only new series guaranteed a berth on the fall schedule.
There’s also an untitled David Caruso drama (Trotwood Prods./Baumgarten Prophet Entertainment/New Regency/Columbia Pictures Television), with the former “NYPD Blue” star playing a similar character, an ex-cop turned federal prosecutor.
“Anne Rice’s Rag and Bone” (James Parriot Prods./Columbia), about a New Orleans priest-turned-cop.
“Dellaventura” (Rysher Entertainment), with Danny Aiello as a detective turned do-gooder private investigator.
“Fargo” (Working Title Films/ITC Entertainment), and “The Magnificent Seven” (MGM/Trilogy Entertainment), based on the feature films.
“Hawaii Five-O” (CBS Prods.), a remake of the 1968-80 crime drama.
“Homestead” (Columbia TriStar/CBS Prods.), with Ann-Margret as a ranching-family matriarch in the style of “Dallas,” from the same producers.
Also, “The Travel Agency” (Warner Bros.), a time-travel drama; “Ghost of a Chance” (Paul Haggis Prods./Rysher), described as “Ghost” meets “Moonlighting”; “Rules of the Game” (20th Century Fox), about a matchmaker; and “Nathan Dixon” (Rysher), about an insurance investigator.
After the presentation, Moonves couldn’t resist a dig at ABC, inverting comments by former network president David Westin, who despite his own web’s troubles has often said CBS’ gains have come mainly from the older reaches of TV viewers. “Despite what David Westin is saying, I’d much rather be playing my hand than theirs,” Moonves said.