CBS unveils primetime schedule

Net adds laughs to Thursday

It was the Big Bang felt around the TV industry.

CBS, the symbol of stability among the major networks, said Wednesday that it would make several aggressive moves this fall — schedule switcheroos that could impact both the Eye’s perf and the competition.

Leading the Eye’s list of surprises: the decision to shift Monday hit “The Big Bang Theory” to Thursday.

With “Big Bang” on Thursday, CBS also had to move “Survivor,” settling on 8 p.m. Wednesday. And both “CSI” spinoffs wound up in new slots.

Eye played down the depth of

the changes, preferring to call its strategy “aggressive stability.” And indeed, beyond the “CSI” offspring shifts and the “Big Bang”/”Survivor” moves, CBS’ sked still looks a lot like, well, a CBS sked.

But make no mistake: CBS is on the offensive.

The network took delight in surprising the biz with its most aggressive shakeup in years.

Eye’s changes come after NBC, Fox and ABC opted to avoid making many moves with existing shows, opting to focus on filling sked holes.

But CBS is dealing with a solid but aging schedule, and execs felt the timing was right to overhaul its lineup.

New sked announcement at Carnegie Hall came a day after CBS cut seven of its lowest-performing series. That was phase one of the net’s strategy to shake things up.

“When we went into development season this year, we had a strategy,” CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler said. “Our goal was to improve time periods and produce enough pilots to really target certain time periods and make some key changes. We had a lot of options and a lot of choices.”

Then came the “Big Bang” move. Show will be paired in the 8 p.m. hour on Thursdays with new laffer “$#*! My Dad Says.”

“The ‘Big Bang’ guys leading into William Shatner — it’s like a dream come true to them,” quipped CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler.

Eye execs faced a challenged in their skedding decisions because of the uncertainty surrounding “Two and a Half Men” and whether star Charlie Sheen would be back next season. Execs said they went into the process assuming that Sheen would reup with the show (which he did late Monday), but if he had not, CBS would not have moved “Big Bang.”

But the Eye saw too much opportunity to pass up in the 8 p.m. Thursday slot. NBC’s laffers are hot with critics but generally deliver weak ratings, and ABC is fielding a new drama, “My Generation,” in the hour.

“If you (move a comedy to Thursday), you’ve got to bring a big stick,” said CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl. ” ‘Big Bang Theory’ is a show that’s absolutely on fire.”Warner Bros. TV prexy Peter Roth, whose studio is behind “The Big Bang Theory,” admits he felt some “trepidation” at first about CBS’ decision to move the show.

But after digesting the decision a bit more, Roth said he supports the move.

“It’s a very bold and aggressive move,” he said. “I understand it, and I’m hoping it’s for the best.”

NBC, of course, dominated Thursdays with comedy in the 1990s, but the night has been much more competitive ever since CBS slotted “Survivor” there and ABC moved “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” there in the early 2000s. After that, networks have used Thursday — the most important night of the week for advertisers — to make bold statements with red-hot properties.

Most recently, ABC made noise by moving “Grey’s Anatomy” to the night. And while “Bones” and “Fringe” weren’t the same kind of major players when Fox moved them there, those two shows have also given Fox its first success on the night in years.

“Big Bang” and “$#*! My Dad Says” will face off against the Peacock’s critically acclaimed but low-rated “Community” and 30 Rock,” as well as ABC’s newcomer “My Generation” and Fox’s “Bones.”Roth said CBS execs told him that they felt the night was up for grabs and that the competition in the hour is relatively weak — a good reason to strike now.

“I applaud them for their audacity,” Roth said. “CBS zinged while the others zagged.”

Roth has reason to be upbeat: “The Big Bang Theory” just sold for mega bucks in syndication to TBS and Fox O&O stations last weekend.

Kahl has wanted to move comedy in the Thursday slot for years — and has tested Monday laffer repeats there in the past. He couldn’t remember the last time CBS actually had regularly skedded sitcoms on the night. (Quick check of the TV encyclopedia: “The Munsters,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “My Three Sons” ran in the 7:30-9 p.m. block in the 1965-66 season.) Another big move for the Eye is displacing “CSI: Miami” from its longtime Monday 10 p.m. home to make room for the redo of “Hawaii Five-O.” “CSI: Miami” is rerouted to Sunday 10 p.m.

And Jerry O’Connell/Jim Belushi buddy lawyer drama “The Defenders” takes “CSI: N.Y.’s” Wednesday 10 p.m. spot, pushing that show to Fridays at 9.

Having just opened up two slots on Friday with the cancellation of “Ghost Whisperer” and “Numbers,” CBS will fill the void with new Tom Selleck cop drama “Blue Bloods” at 10 p.m. “We felt we needed to be more aggressive on Friday,” Kahl said. “And it’s one of the nights we targeted to get stronger.”

On Sundays, CBS opted to keep its top-rated new entry, “Undercover Boss,” in its Sunday home. But with that show now airing in the fall, coupled with “CSI: Miami,” the net believes it will improve on the night.

Eye isn’t done yet: It will start looking at midseason orders in the coming days. Among the likely orders: Brett Ratner’s “Chaos.”

Exec said this year’s schedule was more complicated to put together than in years’ past, as they had more moving parts than usual. But even with those sked moves, CBS is only launching three dramas and two comedies in the fall.

“We don’t have a million new shows, and we’re not asking any of them to be self-starters,” said Tassler, in a mild dig at competitors (such as NBC and ABC).

As for the seven shows canceled by the net on Tuesday, CBS execs noted that they were all low-rated and not on an upward ratings track.

CBS honcho Leslie Moonves took reporters to task for calling those axes surprising, given that most of the shows were posting dismal ratings.

“We love ‘Old Christine’ and ‘Gary Unmarried,’ ” he said. “But the numbers were a 1.7 and a 1.8 and not heading in the right direction. That’s not a good place for the No. 1 network.”

Added Kahl: “We call it the network circle of life. We have some new ones, so some old ones have to say goodbye.”

Later, at the net’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall, CBS chief Leslie Moonves touted the health of the TV biz.

“The network model is red hot,” he said. “What a difference a year makes. All the trends are positive. We’re selling our content at top dollars all over the world except, quite possibly, Greece.”Highlight of the CBS presentation might have been a pre-taped piece featured a rap remix of CBS Research chief David Poltrack’s comments at a winter research convention, when he called the findings of a Forrester Research survey “bullshit.”

The video, which superimposed an animated version of Poltrack’s head on a pop-locking, boombox-wearing dancer, repped the final upfront piece produced by longtime CBS marketing exec Ron Scalera, who died last month.

Said Moonves: “If Poltrack says it’s ‘bullshit,’ it’s ‘bullshit.’ You can take that to the bank.”

Here’s a first look at CBS’ fall 2010 lineup:

8 – How I Met Your Mother
8:30 – Rules of Engagement
9 – Two and a Half Men

8 – NCIS
9 – NCIS: Los Angeles
10 – The Good Wife

8- Survivor
9 – Criminal Minds

8- Big Bang Theory
9 – CSI
10- The Mentalist

8 – Medium
9 – CSI NY

8 – Crime repeats
9 – Crime repeats
10 – 48 Hours

7 – 60 Minutes
8 – Amazing Race
9 – Undercover Boss
10 – CSI: Miami

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