CBS considering new comedy block

Jay Mohr show generating buzz

CBS is said to be thinking about going long on laughs next season.

Eye execs are said to be pleasantly surprised by the caliber of their comedy development this year, and that’s led to much speculation that CBS will open up a new comedy block on its 2008-09 sked, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday. CBS is set to make its calls on pilot pickups and pending returning series by midday Monday, industry insiders say.

The CBS laffer pilot that generated the most chatter during the countdown-to-upfronts weekend was the untitled Jay Mohr starrer, penned by Ed Yeager and Ric Swartzlander for ABC Studios. It revolves around a recently divorced guy in his 30s juggling his re-entry into the dating pool and the demands of his ex-wife and kids. On paper, at least, it sounds like it could be a contender for the post-“Two and a Half Men” slot on Eye’s potent Monday 8-10 p.m. comedy stack.

Another project with some heat was the untitled CBS Paramount Network TV entry from scribe Andrew Secunda. It stars comic Mike Birbiglia in a semi-autobiographical tale of a struggling comic who defies his family and his girlfriend’s influence to pursue his comedy career.

“Worst Week,” from scribe Matt Tarses and Universal Media Studios, based on a British series about a young couple dealing with their soon-to-be in-laws, is also said to have been well-received by Eye execs.

Meanwhile, on the returning series front, the signs are good that Sony Pictures TV’s “Rules of Engagement” will get a third season. There’s been speculation that Julia Louis-Dreyfus starrer “The New Adventures of Old Christine” might decamp for ABC if CBS passes on a fourth season of the Warner Bros. TV comedy. Its fate may depend on how solid CBS programmers feel about the rest of their comedy development. For now, biz oddsmakers see “Old Christine” sticking with CBS, perhaps as a midseason order.

As of Sunday, 20th Century Fox TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” had yet to receive the formal nod for a fourth season, but there’s little doubt that it will, especially as the show is ending this season on the ratings upswing. Assuming “Mother” is a lock, and frosh “Big Bang Theory” is already picked up, as is “Two and a Half Men,” CBS would have the goods to open a fresh comedy block if it picked up two of its half-hour pilots, or some combination of pilots and one or both of its bubble comedies, “Rules” and “Old Christine.”

On the drama side, the eye has its usual wealth of strong pilot contenders. Returning hours still awaiting word of their fate are 20th’s “The Unit” and “Shark” and WB’s “Moonlight.” Expectations in the biz (which may be different from the final verdict in CBS’ skedding meetings) are strong that “Unit” and “Moonlight” make the cut for seasons four and two, respectively, but that season three is not in the cards for James Woods’ “Shark.”

Among the pilots, the one to watch is “Mythological Ex,” penned by Diane Ruggiero and Jonathan Levin, from 20th Century Fox TV. It’s a relationship ensemble about a woman who’s instructed by a tarot card reader to get hitched by year’s end to someone she’s already known in her life — or risk winding up alone. It’s based on a Israeli skein.

WB’s “The Mentalist,” from scribe Bruno Heller, has had strong buzz for a few weeks. Simon Baker stars as a brilliant “mentalist” who helps law enforcement crack tough cases while searching for the killer of his wife and child. And WB’s Jerry Bruckheimer project “Eleventh Hour,” based on a Brit thriller about government investors looking into “X-Files” type cases, has been seen as “on the air” for a few weeks, so much so that the show has already opened its doors to hire writing staff.

Buzz was building during the weekend about a midseason pickup for “Harper’s Island,” a murder mystery with interactive elements that revolves around a group of friends who meet on an island off the Seattle coast for an elaborate wedding. It’s penned by Ari Schlossberg and hails from CBS Paramount Network TV and Jon Turteltaub’s Junction Entertainment.

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