Upfront Scorecard: CBS Rolls Dice on Becoming the New ‘Must-See TV’

Mom (Warner Bros.)

Eye network revels in No. 1 status with aggressive comedy push, drama moves

CBS was so eager to start boasting about being No. 1, its upfront presentation began promptly at 4:01 p.m. ET, which is virtually unheard of. Advertisers straggling in late might have even missed the sweet tribute to the upcoming final season of “How I Met Your Mother,” once again demonstrating why networks like using the “Les Miserables” soundtrack in their presentations.

In some respects, that sense of urgency was understandable. In others, they might have wanted to wait a little longer.

SEE ALSO: CBS Expands Thursday Comedy Block, Shuffles Dramas

The Eye network’s big gamble for the fall involves expanding to a second comedy four-stack on Thursday night, essentially seeking to drive reeling NBC into the ground and formally claim the valuable suck-up-all-that-movie-marketing-cash “Must-See TV” mantle for itself. Yet judging the network’s quartet of new sitcoms by their cutdown clips, CBS only made it halfway there.

Oddly, for a network that has performed so well with multi-camera half-hours, both of its new shows in that format, Chuck Lorre’s latest “Mom” and Greg Garcia’s “The Millers,” looked completely flat, despite stellar casts. By contrast, the single-camera “We Are Men” produced a couple of genuine laughs and has the potential to provide a sturdy bridge between “How I Met Your Mother” and “2 Broke Girls,” while the Robin Williams vehicle “The Crazy Ones” — also single camera, and from producer David E. Kelley — had moments, although its prospects will largely depend on one’s tolerance of Williams’ rat-a-tat schtick.

As usual, the network’s real strength comes from its stability, which fosters the ability to target changes and shrewd scheduling moves. In that regard, the real switch that will bear watching involves moving “Person of Interest” — clearly the cream of CBS’ procedural crop — to Tuesdays at 10 p.m., where it has the potential to be especially dominant behind the “NCIS” combo.

Similarly, “Hawaii Five-O” feels like a good fit for Friday nights, opening the door to a pair of dramas that will share the 10 p.m. timeslot on Monday: “Hostages,” a limited-run serial with a strong cast (Toni Collette alone would qualify), and “24”-like vibe; and “Intelligence,” starring “Lost’s” Josh Holloway, which is essentially just another twist on the genre CBS has mined with “The Mentalist” and “Elementary.”

Even if the Thursday gambit doesn’t pay off, in other words — and “The Big Bang Theory” is such a titan it can’t flop entirely, even if the new shows falter in the order of “$#*! My Dad Says”– CBS has a lot of strength spread throughout the week, as the network kept reminding you. And then, you know, reminding you again.

Elsewhere, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves couldn’t resist needling NBC for its unwelcome dramas in latenight and the morning — with awkward baton passes on “Today” and “The Tonight Show” — while David Letterman made a rare upfront appearance, suggesting he’s perhaps more engaged for the next chapter of the latenight wars. With Jay Leno gone come February, one suspects the prickly host relishes the opportunity to maybe go out on top.

There’s no question CBS has an edge heading into next season, and the network exhibited a playfulness at its upfront presentation (including flashing subliminal messages on sales chief Jo Ann Ross’ skirt) that reflected its confidence.

Moonves even subtly channeled Ronald Reagan, of all people, in citing CBS’ demographic success — having notched its first adults 18-49 win in more than 20 years — saying, “When making your buys, please, don’t hold our youth against us.” (Reagan used a similar line in a debate with Walter Mondale.)

Hold CBS’ youth against it? Never. Its comedies? Maybe.

Preliminary grade: B

(Upfront presentations are graded on a curve, so all evaluations are subject to revision at the end of the week.)

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 2

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. pa695 says:

    just before I saw the draft which said $9871, I be certain that…my… mom in-law had been truley bringing in money in their spare time at there labtop.. there aunts neighbour started doing this less than eleven months and recently repaid the dept on their mini mansion and bought themselves a Lotus Carlton. we looked here………… fox85.com

  2. Dave Noll says:

    Your comments do not make sense and seem inaccurate. “The Millers” – which I didn’t think was going to be good, and on paper seemed uninteresting – was by far the funniest clip of any upfront of the week. Easily. Did you actually attend the event? The people in my section were laughing out loud throughout and clapped/cheered at the end. Hits of the upfronts so far… James Spader, “The Millers” and CBS’ confident presentation.

More TV News from Variety