Four primetime favorites set for next season

CBS is going long on laughs next season.

The Eye signaled its intent to boost the comedy quotient on its 2008-09 sked in a big way by giving renewals to “How I Met Your Mother” and bubble comedies “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Rules of Engagement.” CBS execs would not comment on any pickups or cancellations prior to today’s skedded unveiling at Carnegie Hall.

Drama “The Unit” also received an eleventh-hour pickup Tuesday, but the news was not good for frosh vampire drama “Moonlight” or the second-year James Woods starrer “Shark.”

Renewals of the three comedies, combined with the returning “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” and the two half-hour pilots the Eye greenlit Monday, strongly suggest that CBS plans to expand beyond its Monday comedy block next season. Speculation in the biz has CBS adding an hour of comedy Wednesday at 8-9 p.m., possibly the combo of “Old Christine” and “Rules of Engagement.”

Monday lineup is expected to stay mostly the same with “Big Bang” and “Mother” from 8-9 p.m., although the two shows could swap positions given “Mother’s” recent ratings uptick. “Two and a Half Men” will undoubtedly continue in the 9 p.m. anchor slot, and the strong buzz on the Jay Mohr pilot “Project Gary” suggests it is bound for the coveted 9:30 slot behind “Men.”

Renewal of “Mother,” from 20th Century Fox TV, was never really in doubt, given its buzzworthy status and its ratings momentum during the past two months since its post-strike return. CBS is said to have given the show a 26-seg order for its fourth season.

Warner Bros. TV’s “Old Christine” was on the fence for awhile, and ABC let it be known that if CBS were to pass on a fourth season of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus starrer, the Alphabet would quickly nab the show. In the end, CBS gave “Old Christine” a full-season order.

Couples comedy “Rules of Engagement,” from Sony Pictures TV, was also a fence-sitter but is known to have its fans at the Eye, helping it over the hurdle to a third season. “The Unit,” from 20th Century Fox TV, is seen as a durable player that has done respectable business in a range of timeslots. The delay in the fourth-season pickup of “Unit” was something of a surprise given its steady perf.

Warner Bros. TV’s “Moonlight,” meanwhile, was done in by a combination of factors despite having developed a cadre of passionate fans.

It’s understood that Eye execs were not impressed with the show’s creative development, and there was much drama and turnover behind the scenes among producers and scribes and tussling between the network and studio over budgetary issues. The final straw was the show’s sagging ratings perf during the past few weeks after its post-strike return.

“Shark,” from 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV, also was a victim of low ratings in its Sunday 10 p.m. berth this season.

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