CBS: With only four freshmen, Eye seeks stability

The Eye’s motto this fall: Don’t blink.

While CBS has made stability something of an art form in recent years, it’s taking the concept to a whole new level this season. It’s adding just four shows to its lineup, the fewest among the established networks. And it brought back more frosh skeins from the 2005-06 season than anyone else.

“Business is good at CBS,” says Eye entertainment prexy Nina Tassler.

Indeed, CBS just finished its third consecutive season as TV’s most-watched network. And while it technically finished third among adults 18-49 last season, CBS was just a tad behind Fox and ABC — not bad for a net that not long ago was a demo also-ran.

Yet despite the overall sked stability, CBS is actually taking some pretty big risks:

  • After dethroning NBC as the champ of Thursday nights, net is breaking up its successful lineup by moving “Without a Trace” to Sundays at 10.

  • “Trace” is relocating in part because CBS has decided to dump its long-standing Sunday movie franchise in favor of crime dramas.

  • For the first time in five years, CBS isn’t premiering a show from Jerry Bruckheimer. What’s more, none of the net’s newcomers is a pure crime procedural — the Eye’s bread and butter.

“With success comes a greater commitment to being even more aggressive,” Tassler says, noting that the net’s frosh foursome “represent very different kinds of programming for us.”

Well, sort of. “Smith” and “Shark” don’t revolve around flashlight-toting detectives solving crimes, but they’re still firmly set in the world of lawlessness — so much so that CBS has even linked “Shark” to “CSI” in promos.

But small-town “Jericho” is an attempt by the Eye to launch a buzzworthy relationship-based drama. And on the comedy side, “The Class” takes the Eye further away from its blue-collar blandness and has been rewarded with some of the best preseason hype of any new comedy.


When: 8, Mondays
The plot: Third-grade classmates reunite in their 20s and become friends all over again.
Exec producers: David Crane, Jeffrey Klarik, James Burrows
What works: Flat-out funny writing and a winning ensemble make this show a can’t-miss comedy.
What doesn’t: It can be hard to keep track of who’s who in this sprawling ensemble.
Bottom line: This “Class” should graduate to next season, with honors.

When: 8, Wednesdays
The plot: An apparent series of nuclear blasts leads citizens of a small town to wonder if they’re the only survivors left in America; Skeet Ulrich stars.
Exec producers: Jonathan A. Steinberg, Josh Schaer, Stephen Chbosky
What works: Creepy atmospherics and a plot that taps right into the American zeitgeist circa 2000. And unlike last year’s sci-fi skeins, everything here is rooted in reality.
What doesn’t: If viewers have to wait too long for answers, they may tune out.
Bottom line: A solid show that could struggle to find its audience.

When: 10, Thursdays
The plot: A superstar defense attorney (James Woods) decides to switch sides and work for the city as a prosecutor.
Exec producers: Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Ian Biederman, Ed Redlich, Rod Holcomb
What works: Spike Lee, who directed the pilot, gets a great scenery-chewing perf out of Woods.
What doesn’t: Supporting cast is a snooze, making the show feel a bit like “House” lite. Might stand out more if there were more suds and less emphasis on the procedural aspect of the show.
Bottom line: Great timeslot and so-so competish mean the show should last until May.

When: 10, Tuesdays
The plot: Ray Liotta is a brilliant criminal who happens to have a wife (Virginia Madsen) and kids. Think “Ocean’s Eleven” with hardcore crooks.
Exec producers: John Wells, Brooke Kennedy, Chris Chulack
What works: The star-studded cast has no weak links, and it’s brave of the producers to serve up a show where some of the “heroes” are actually evil.
What doesn’t: Liotta’s Smith is no Tony Soprano, making it hard to figure out whom to root for.
Bottom line: A great fit with “The Unit,” this could find a loyal aud if the Eye’s heartland core can handle the violence.


Premiere: Sept. 17 (installment 10)
Timeslot: 8, Sundays (new)
Cast changes: New contestants
Storyline: Twelve teams travel the world competing in a series of mental and physical challenges.

Premiere: Sept. 22 (season 2)
Timeslot: 9, Fridays
Cast changes: David James Elliott, Cress Williams and Jon Seda join the cast.
Storyline: Annabeth returns to work following the death of her husband, a victim of a drunk driver, and finds she has a new boss.

Premiere: Sept. 24 (season 3)
Timeslot: 9, Sundays (new)
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Lilly and her team hunt down a shooting-spree killer before he opens fire in the local mall.

Premiere: Sept. 20 (season 2)
Timeslot: 9, Wednesdays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Gideon, Hotchner and their team continue to search for the psychopath who used the team’s personal information to involve them in a mystery of a missing girl.

Premiere: Sept. 21 (season 7)
Timeslot: 9, Thursdays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: A murder at Cirque du Soleil embroils the CSI team in the backstage workings of the Vegas show, and Catherine and her family are placed in jeopardy.

Premiere: Sept. 18 (season 5)
Timeslot: 10, Mondays
Cast changes: Rob Estes will have a recurring role.
Storyline: In the hunt for Marisol’s killer, Horatio and Delko must go to Rio de Janeiro to avenge her death.

Premiere: Sept. 20 (season 3)
Timeslot: 10, Wednesdays
Cast changes: Claire Forlani has a recurring role this season.
Storyline: Mac partners with his new love interest — the department’s new medical examiner — to solve a murder that took place on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Premiere: Sept. 22 (season 2)
Timeslot: 8, Fridays
Cast changes: Camryn Manheim joins the cast. Jay Mohr will have a recurring role.
Storyline: Melinda is caught in a tug of war with “Wide Brim” man over Andrea’s fate following a plane crash.

Premiere: Sept. 18 (season 2)
Timeslot: 8:30, Mondays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: As Robin and Ted explore their burgeoning relationship, Marshall must cope when Lily, his ex-
fiancee, returns to town.

Premiere: Sept. 19 (season 4)
Timeslot: 8, Tuesdays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Ziva witnesses a political assassination and the team has to clear her name without (newly retired) Gibbs’ help.

Premiere: Sept. 18 (season 2)
Timeslot: 9:30, Mondays
Cast changes: Blair Underwood will have a recurring role.
Storyline: Old Christine and best friend Barb start a new business relationship, Richie gets a handsome new teacher, and Matthew has an existential crisis.

Premiere: Sept. 22 (season 3)
Timeslot: 10, Fridays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Don and his team hunt down a 30-year-old teacher and her 17-year-old boyfriend who have embarked on a crime spree from Indiana to Los Angeles.

Premiere: Sept. 14 (installment 13)
Timeslot: 8, Thursdays
Cast changes: New contestants
Storyline: The game moves to the Cook Islands in Polynesia.

Premiere: Sept. 18 (season 3)
Timeslot: 9, Mondays
Cast changes: April Bowlby will have a recurring role.
Storyline: Now that newlywed Alan has moved out, Charlie returns to his bachelor lifestyle.

Premiere: Sept. 19 (season 2)
Timeslot: 9, Tuesdays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: When the unit heads to Pakistan on a mission, a key member of the team stays behind as he prepares to leave Fort Griffith and his unit family for good.

Premiere: Sept. 24 (season 5)
Timeslot: 10, Sundays (new)
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Jack and Ann must figure out what their future plans are now that she’s pregnant.

— returning show capsules compiled by Paula Hendrickson

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