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Lowry’s latest – CBS, Part I

At first glance, CBS has come to a rather stark conclusion: You can only go so far with a lineup that relies almost entirely on chalk outlines.

After becoming known as the home of dead bodies — devoting half its primetime hours to crime shows, anchored by three “CSIs” and “NCIS,” which is really just “CSI” with the letters jumbled around — the Eye network has realized that they have to take some bigger, bolder bets. As a huge fan of the original BBC version of “Viva Blackpool,” the U.S. version “Viva Laughlin” is precisely that — and a conceptual gamble, if you’ll pardon the expression, with very long odds.

Still, it beats the hell out of sitting back and waiting for the audience to realize that there are only so many ways to dismember a human body, right before zooming through the puncture wound to watch the little neurons stop firing. While CBS has had a great run with that approach, it’s clearly yielding diminishing returns.

On the down side, those in the press who questioned whether last year’s serialized dramas might leave viewers high and dry have a prime example with “Jericho,” which ended on a cliffhanger and now risks leaving its little Kansas town in limbo for all eternity. There’s no evidence that disappointed fans hold extended grudges, but this is one of those instances where some kind of closure — a blog posting, online outline, whatever, assuming a two-hour movie isn’t feasible — would seem to be good customer service. Barring that, this might be the worst endless cliffhanger since CBS’ sci-fi series “Now and Again” a few years ago.

The network also merits a share of blame, too, for “Jericho’s” demise, having benched the show for an extended stretch after its promising debut. The ratings never rebounded when it returned (Fox helped kill it off with expanded “Amercian Idol” rounds) and what initially looked like a keeper for CBS soon went Ka-boom.

On the plus side, maybe this means Ashley Scott will be available to do “Into the Blue 2: Even Less Plot, But More Bikinis.”

— Brian Lowry

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