Franchise faceoff

Eye pits 'CSI: NY' against perennial 'Law'

This article was updated at 7:13 p.m.

NEW YORK — CBS promises a battle of Gotham proportion this fall, slating newcomer “CSI: NY” against the granddaddy of New York-based procedurals, “Law & Order.”

Meanwhile, the Eye has decided to give up the Saturday ghost.

Unveiling the net’s fall 2004 schedule Wednesday at Carnegie Hall, CBS chief exec Leslie Moonves said he believed “Law & Order” may be vulnerable, particularly against the third installment of the wildly popular “CSI” franchise.

“We’re going to strike while the iron is hot,” he said. “Write this down: ‘CSI: NY’ will be next year’s top new drama.”

As for Saturdays, Moonves said it was time to throw in the towel on the night as far as original, scripted programming is concerned.

Net has axed its three-drama lineup and will join its rivals next season in turning to low-cost repeats and reality series.

Decision to scrap its Saturday m.o. was the biggest change in what was otherwise a fairly stable schedule. Eye slated three new dramas and two frosh sitcoms and shifted just two existing shows: “Still Standing” and the newly refocused “48 Hours Mysteries.”

“I think we’ll do even better next year than this year, and we had an extraordinary year,” Moonves told reporters earlier in the day.

For the most part, Moonves called the new schedule very conservative.

“We’re dealing with a position of strength,” said the exec, who pointed out that the net will end the year No. 1 among adults 25-54 for the first time since 1980. (In fact, the Eye will end tied with NBC.)

“When (other networks) talk about improvements, I don’t see it. We’re up in every single category, while every other network is down — check it out.”

CBS will kick off Monday nights with third-year skein “Still Standing,” which shifts down to 8, formerly home to “Yes, Dear.”

Eye confirmed it had picked up 13 segs of “Yes, Dear” for midseason (Daily Variety, May 19). Insiders said the net negotiated a deal in which it won’t pay a full-cost license fee for the show.

Twentieth Century Fox “made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” Moonves said.

At 8:30, net has scheduled “Listen Up,” the new Jason Alexander starrer based on the life of sports columnist Tony Kornheiser (from Regency TV and CBS Prods.), followed by the final season of “Everybody Loves Raymond” at 9 and “Two and a Half Men” at 9:30. “CSI: Miami” is back at 10.

Moonves said the net had several options to handle the smaller 16-episode “Raymond” order, including clip shows and 90-minute editions of “CSI: Miami.” Net could also debut its Chuck Lorre/Jenna Elfman comedy (Daily Variety, May 19) on the night, shuffling the sked while resting “Raymond.”

Stable night

On Tuesdays, “NCIS” (which quietly reverted back from its “Navy NCIS” title) stays at 8 p.m., while “Judging Amy” sticks with its 10 slot.

In between at 9, net has skedded new Spelling/Icon drama “Clubhouse,” which revolves around a batboy for the fictional New York Empire. (Show was originally set inside the Yankees camp, but the Eye wanted to avoid the licensing issues.) Moonves hopes to turn “Clubhouse” into “next year’s ‘Joan of Arcadia.’ ”

The remonikered Wednesday edition of “60 Minutes” (formerly “60 Minutes II”) stays Wednesdays at 8 p.m., followed by “The King of Queens.”

Leading out of “King” at 9:30 is the John Goodman sitcom “Center of the Universe,” from Warner Bros. TV, CBS Prods. and the Tannenbaum Co. “Center of the Universe” is net’s highest-testing pilot in years, Moonves said.

As mentioned earlier, “CSI: NY” takes over the 10 p.m. slot.

Thursdays stay the same, with “Survivor: Vanuatu” at 8 p.m., followed by “CSI” and “Without a Trace.” (Sundays, with “60 Minutes,” “Cold Case” and the CBS Sunday movie, also goes unchanged.)

Frosh hit “Joan of Arcadia” returns in its Friday night at 8 slot, while military drama “JAG” remains at 9. New Warner Bros. TV/CBS Prods./Bender-Brown drama “Dr. Vegas,” about a casino’s inhouse doctor, cashes in at 10.

Then there’s Saturday. Following “48 Hours Mysteries” at 8 p.m., net will bring back Emmy-winning reality fave “The Amazing Race” at 9.

At 10, CBS will go repeat-heavy, as it airs second and third runs of popular procedural dramas such as the “CSI” trilogy, “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case.” In a nod to the net’s circa 1980s franchise Crimetime After Primetime, the Saturday night wheel has been dubbed Crimetime Saturday.

Saturday night fevers

Eye had been mulling whether to get out of the Saturday scripted business for some time (Daily Variety, May 19), something ABC and NBC did several years ago (although the Alphabet web did take one last stab last year with “L.A. Dragnet,” which quickly fizzled).

Nets have lost interest in the night — the lowest-viewed of the week — for some time; the WB even opted to expand into Sunday afternoon rather than sked on Saturday evenings.

By adding “Amazing Race” — the net’s youngest-skewing show — and the Crimetime repeats, net believes it can dramatically age down the night and save money by not having to pay those drama series license fees.

“We were trying to be good citizens by putting on dramas,” Moonves said. “We were winning households but coming in fourth in demos. We finally said this is dumb to come in fourth on Saturday night. We were spending on dramas that weren’t catching on.”

Demos? CBS? Indeed, Moonves — who has criticized rival nets in the past for focusing too much on adults 18-49 — said he’s now eyeing that group, given the Eye’s continued success in the total-viewers field.

“One of our priorities is to get a bit younger, to continue that trend,” he said. “Who’d have thought we’d be challenging the leader in adults 18-49?”

Moonves took more than a few swipes at cross-town rival NBC, contending that the Peacock has lost its luster, thanks to shows like “Fear Factor,” while the Eye had regained its distinction as the “Tiffany network.”

“A few years ago, NBC was the Must See TV, quality network,” said Moonves, pointing to shows such as “Friends,” “Cheers” and “Seinfeld.” “We think we’ve taken that mantle back.”

Unlike nets such as ABC, NBC and the WB, all of which announced timeslots for several midseason shows, the Eye didn’t reveal any post-January plans. “Things change, and to announce what’s going in a timeslot after something else, you don’t know,” he said. “We try to play it looser than that.”

He took a specific shot at the Peacock, which held back several comedies and dramas until later in the year. “When someone orders five new shows and seven backups, it means someone doesn’t have confidence in the shows they’re putting on,” Moonves said.

CBS’ presentation kicked off with a Beatles cover band tweaking rival nets via reworked Fab Four songs. “I get by with a little help from my friends” became an ode to NBC, “They’re screwed ’cause they don’t have ‘Friends.’ ”

That was followed by a video featuring Moonves, Pete Rose and former Calif. guv Gray Davis, all of whom claimed they had a tougher year than the next.

Gone for good from the CBS sked are “Becker,” “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.,” “Century City,” “The District,” “The Guardian,” “Hack,” “The Handler” and “The Stones.”

Monday

8:00 – Still Standing
8:30 – Listen Up (NEW)
9:00 – Everybody Loves Raymond
9:30 – Two and a Half Men
10:00 – CSI: Miami

Tuesday

8:00 – NCIS
9:00 – Clubhouse (NEW)
10:00 – Judging Amy

Wednesday

8:00 – 60 Minutes (formerly 60 Minutes II)
9:00 – The King of Queens
9:30 – Center of the Universe (NEW)
10:00 – CSI: NY

Thursday

8:00 – Survivor
9:00 – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
10:00 – Without a Trace

Friday

8:00 – Joan of Arcadia
9:00 – JAG
10:00 – Dr. Vegas (NEW)

Saturday

8:00 – 48 Hours Mystery
9:00 – The Amazing Race
10:00 – Crimetime Saturday (drama repeats)

Sunday

7:00 – 60 Minutes
8:00 – Cold Case
9:00 – CBS Sunday Movie

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