Grading the Upfronts: CBS Lays Down ‘Big’ Bet

CBS tends to do too much chest-thumping during its upfront presentations, but the network’s lineup of new shows — and just as important, several shrewd scheduling moves, none bigger than moving “The Big Bang Theory” to Thursdays — seem poised to deliver the goods.

What really stood out, actually, was CBS’ willingness to bet on unorthodox leads, albeit surrounding them with more conventional supporting players. What other network would dare build shows around a corpulent couple, Jim Belushi, 60-something Tom Selleck, and 70-something William Shatner?

And yet, it all looks orchestrated to work, or at least most of it. Both “Mike & Molly” — a romantic comedy about two overweight people who find each other, from producer Chuck Lorre — and the William Shatner vehicle “Shat My Dad Says” have strong lead-ins and based on the preview, considerable promise. So too does the Selleck family-of-cops drama “Blue Bloods” and a reboot of “Hawaii Five-O” that continues CBS’ “We’re going to keep casting Alex O’Loughlin until you love him as much as we do” strategy.

As CBS Entertainment Prez Nina Tassler noted in a presentation that ran only about 70 minutes (well done there, too), each of the new shows launches behind one with an established following, which for an older-skewing network is a bigger help than most.

Bbt In terms of ad sales, “Big Bang” will almost surely rake in movie money on Thursday nights, while “Survivor” — well past its heyday — should still significantly improve Wednesdays. My main concern would be Sundays, where the reliance on reality (“Amazing Race” into “Undercover Boss”) will doubtless leave plenty of open weeks to fill.

Presentation-wise, there was also a rather sweet moment with the brilliant Jim Parsons — still in his “Big Bang” character — pouncing on Shatner.

CBS talked a lot of shit during its presentation — and not just because of the title of the new Shatner comedy — but the network does seem to have the potential to build on its success. (If I had to pick an obvious longshot, it’s perhaps appropriately the Vegas-set legal drama “The Defenders,” starring Belushi.)

Still, when the old “Hawaii Five-O” theme started to play, even I was ready to run out and buy something — and I bet media buyers of a certain age felt that way too. Book ’em, indeed.

Preliminary grade: A-

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