CBS gets creative with new season
The CBS crime wave will slow down just a bit, with the Eye ordering a slate of eight new series designed to open up TV’s most-watched web to a broader range of dramas and comedies.
While the net’s frosh crop still has its share of cops, lawyers and other law enforcement types — as well as the legally required new hour from Jerry Bruckheimer — the five dramas and three comedies ordered to series Monday rep one of CBS’ most ambitious development slates in years.
Eye is being particularly bold on the comedy front, at least compared with its recent laffer efforts. Not a single one of the net’s new comedies features an overweight male lead with an attractive young wife, though all feature at least one cast member who’s starred in a previous sitcom hit.
CBS is also taking chances with its dramas, including a rare foray into sci-fi, as well as another hour with a supernatural theme. Big-name producers are still well represented, however: In addition to Bruckheimer’s latest project, pilots from Mark Gordon, David Mamet, David Goyer and David Heyman all have been greenlit to series.
It’s widely expected that a few of the eight shows picked up will be saved for later in the season. Which are headed for fall and which will bow midseason wasn’t known Monday. Net also is keeping a tight lid on the sked it will unveil to advertisers Wednesday.
On the drama side, Bruckheimer skein is “American Crime,” a Warner Bros. TV hour from scribe Jim Leonard that looks at suburban criminal activity via the eyes of a newbie prosecutor. Gordon, meanwhile, is behind “Quantico,” a Touchstone-produced drama focusing on FBI profilers and starring Mandy Patinkin.
Mamet is teamed up with Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) for 20th Century Fox TV’s “The Unit,” a star-packed hour about a group of Delta Force agents that also explores their home lives.
Pushing the envelope is “Threshold,” a spooky hour from Paramount depicting how the government responds to an alien threat. Goyer and Heyman are among the producers on the project.
Also out there is Touchstone’s “The Ghost Whisperer,” an hour inspired by James Van Praagh in which Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a young newlywed who talks to the dead.
Another buzzworthy CBS drama pilot, “Love Monkey,” hasn’t snagged a series order, but industry insiders still believe it may be a midseason contender once Eye execs return to Los Angeles next week.
On the comedy front, well-known stars are being balanced by nontraditional concepts (at least by usual CBS comedy standards).
One of the year’s more innovative hours (on any net) may be “How I Met Your Mother,” in which a single man looks for the love of his life, telling his story to his kids 25 years in the future via flashbacks. Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan star in the 20th-produced skein.
Jenna Elfman returns to TV with “Everything I Know About Men,” a Touchstone/Par co-production about a single woman’s dating adventures. Veteran thesps Henry Winkler and Stockard Channing are part of the ensemble of “Flesh and Blood,” Par’s half-hour about a family of doctors, from “Frasier” scribes Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan.
Guessing the Eye sked before its announcement is risky, but advance industry buzz had some wondering if the net may try a younger-skewing drama like “Threshold” after “The Amazing Race” on Tuesdays.
Another CBS laffer with strong internal support, the Julia Louis-Dreyfus laffer “Old Christine,” didn’t snag an order Monday but may yet land an order post-upfront.
Eye sibling net UPN was the only net not to have phoned producers with series pickups as of late Monday. However, there’s strong advance buzz for Chris Rock-produced laffer “Everybody Hates Chris” and Denise Richards drama “Wild Life.” Some insiders also were speculating that the net may bring back rookie drama “Kevin Hill” in some form.