An Eye for youth

CBS slots 5 new dramas, 2 laffers in demo bid

This story was corrected on May 20, 2001.

NEW YORK — Already energized by the demographic success of “Survivor” and “CSI,” CBS will look to further shed its image as the granny web next season with a surprisingly aggressive fall sked that makes major changes on most nights of the week.

Eye’s lineup, disclosed to advertisers Wednesday at a Carnegie Hall presentation, is almost as notable for what’s missing as for what made the cut. Long-running staples “Diagnosis Murder” and “Nash Bridges” have both been axed, as has the net’s Wednesday movie franchise.

Those four hours were some of the oldest-skewing on the CBS sked; eliminating them should go a long way toward helping the net reach its stated goal of shaping a younger audience profile.

Big moves include shifting “Touched by an Angel” to Saturdays and filling its 8 p.m. Sunday slot with the new Richard Dreyfuss starrer “The Education of Max Bickford” (20th Century Fox TV); it’s just the third time since 1984 the net has made a change in the slot.

“We’ve think we’ve taken a few more chances than our two competitors,” CBS TV prexy and CEO Leslie Moonves told reporters a few hours before his Carnegie Hall gig. “This is a very ambitious schedule.”

Overall, CBS has slated five new dramas, a pair of comedies and a new reality adventure series. CBS News will again have three hours in the lineup, putting it on a par with usual primetime news leader NBC for the first time in the “Dateline” era.

Eye made its biggest changes on Wednesday and Friday nights, both of which have proven to be ratings trouble spots for the net this season — and consequently are getting makeovers. By contrast, Monday will remain completely intact for the first time since the days of “Newhart” and “Cagney & Lacey” in 1985.

Tuesday is also pretty stable, with “JAG” and “Judging Amy” returning as anchors at 8 and 10 p.m. At 9, the Eye will bow “The Guardian” (Columbia TriStar TV/CBS Prods.), in which Aussie thesp Simon Baker plays an upscale lawyer who ends up working as a child advocate.

While “60 II” was doing fine on Tuesdays, “There was very little flow on the night,” Moonves said. Eye’s hope now is to turn “Guardian” into its next franchise drama, while boosting 8 p.m. Wednesday with “60 II.”

At 9 p.m. Wednesday, CBS will take another stab at the reality genre with the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “Amazing Race” (CBS Prods./Touchstone). The race-around- the-world hour — think ” ‘Survivor’ on speed,” as Moonves put it — plays in a slot where Fox found much success with “Temptation Island.”

Dancing with ‘Wolf’

CBS will get a little edgier at 10 p.m. Wednesday with “Wolf Lake” (Big Ticket/CBSP), a spooky drama about wolves that roam a Seattle suburb in human form. Moonves is hoping the show will develop an “X-Files”-like cult following.

On Thursday, CBS brings back the third installment of “Survivor” in October, with the fourth edition slated for early March. “CSI,” which has done monster numbers at 9 p.m., also stays put.

The CIA-set drama “The Agency” (CBS Prods./Studios USA) — from exec producers Michael Frost Beckner, Gail Katz, Wolfgang Petersen and Shaun Cassidy — will battle “ER” at 10 p.m., though the slot’s no longer considered quite as deadly with a “CSI” lead-in.

Some insiders had speculated CBS might move “CSI” opposite “ER,” but Moonves said he wasn’t ready to be quite that bold. “I don’t want to get too cocky,” he said.

On Fridays, CBS– despite its historic bad luck with comedies on the night (think “Meego”) — will try once more with the combo of Ellen DeGeneres’ “The Ellen Show” (ATG/CBS Prods.) and the Daniel Stern starrer “American Wreck” (Big Ticket) from 8-9 p.m. With CBS’ main competish trying reality or drama in the slot, the hope is that the Eye will be the comedy alternative.

At 9, critical fave “That’s Life” gets a new lease on life, while veteran newsmag “48 Hours” moves to 10. CBS had planned to air “Wolf Lake” in the slot, but chose to sked its newsmag instead when ABC opted to move “20/20” to Wednesdays for the fourth quarter.

Moonves admitted the Friday sked was “high risk,” but with “Diagnosis” and “Nash” both exiting, CBS virtually had no choice but to drastically remodel.

Mr. Saturday night

On Saturdays, CBS is looking to “Touched” to recapture a night it once owned by returning the skein to the night it left in 1996.

Biggest surprise is at 9, where CBS is slotting the John Wells/Lydia Woodward-produced “Citizen Baines” (Warner Bros. TV). Show, about a senator (James Cromwell) who returns home after losing an election, had been considered a shoo-in for a more high-profile spot on Sunday or Monday nights. But with “Touched” moving back, “Baines” became the logical choice to follow it and lead in to “The District” at 10.

Sundays will continue to lead off with “60 Minutes,” followed by “The Education of Max Bickford” and the “CBS Sunday Movie.” With “Angel” gone, Moonves promised the pic franchise would expand beyond femme-appeal sobbers to include more universally appealing fare.

For midseason, CBS has ordered the Par drama “First Monday,” ensuring that the Eye, like ABC, will have a midseason series about the Supreme Court. Net also announced plans to broadcast the September tribute concert to Michael Jackson, an “I Love Lucy” anni spec and a “Carol Burnett Show” reunion.

Other CBS skeins getting the axe include “Kate Brasher,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Some of My Best Friends,” “Big Apple,” “Welcome to New York” and “Bette.”