Now that it’s on top of the ratings heap, CBS has a new challenge: remaining there.
Part of that approach involves simply staying the course, says Eye entertainment topper Nina Tassler. “Our strategy remains to broadcast to everybody. And in the process, we’ve reached more young viewers and expanded our definition of success.”
That means continuing to take advantage of the huge success of procedural drama hits such as “CSI” and “Without a Trace.” Eye will expand its roster of crime dramas this fall with shows “Close to Home” and “Criminal Minds.”
Despite being criticized for airing too many, Tassler doesn’t believe the network has overdosed on procedurals. As long as viewers keep tuning in, the net will give them what they want.
“Especially with the way our numbers are performing, our core schedule rerunning as well as it does during the summer, clearly we’ve struck a chord with our audience,” she says. “I think we’ll just rely on our viewers to tell us when they’ve had enough.”
Still, Eye is branching out this year with a broader mix of drama, such as sci-fi thriller “Threshold” and the talk-to-dead-people entry “Ghost Whisperer.”
“We wanted to capitalize on the growing number of younger viewers coming to the network and try some different types of drama,” Tassler says. On the comedy front, Eye hopes to make a seamless transition on Monday nights as “Two and a Half Men” takes over the tentpole 9 p.m. slot formerly held by “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Also on the night, CBS has what most agree are its strongest new crop of comedies in years: “How I Met Your Mother” and “Out of Practice.” Tassler says the shows “represent very different types of comedies for CBS, but they’re still very compatible with their respective lead-ins.”
Meanwhile, Eye can count on two of its biggest not-so-secret weapons: reality staples “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race.”
CLOSE TO HOME
Timeslot: 10, Tuesday
The plot: Young prosecutor returns to work soon after the birth of her first child, focusing on crimes in suburbia.
Exec producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Jim Leonard
What works: Setting show in suburbs sets this apart from other procedurals; family aspect gives it more of a personal touch.
What doesn’t: A bit more character-driven than other procedurals. Jury’s still out on whether relative newcomer Jennifer Finnigan can carry it on her own.
Bottom line: It’s Bruckheimer. On CBS. Don’t bet against it.
Timeslot: 9, Wednesday
The plot: Mandy Patinkin leads an elite squad of FBI agents that profiles the nation’s craziest criminals.
Exec producers: Mark Gordon, Ed Bernero
What works: Patinkin, as usual, works well on camera. Story is crisply crafted.
What doesn’t: FBI, criminals, crimes. Haven’t we seen this before?
Bottom line: Will have to find a way to stand out in the increasingly crowded procedural crowd.
Timeslot: 8, Friday
The plot: Jennifer Love Hewitt speaks to the dead, helping them resolve unfinished business.
Exec producers: John Wirth, Ian Sander, Kim Moses, John Gray
What works: Spooky concept, but upbeat stories make the show very approachable, especially on a Friday night.
What doesn’t: May be too soft, and will likely attract a much older audience than CBS is hoping for.
Bottom line: Show’s not going to help CBS get any younger, but will do well with certain underserved older demos on the night.
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Timeslot: 8:30, Monday
The plot: Ensemble comedy centered on a young man who realizes he better start looking for his soul mate; told in flashbacks.
Exec producers: Carter Bays, Craig Thomas, Eileen Heisler, DeAnn Heline
What works: Freshest comedy to hit CBS in years, the cast is young and instantly likable, while the show is edgy but has heart.
What doesn’t: Jury’s still out on the surprise twist at the end of the pilot episode.
Bottom line: If any comedy on any network is going to work this year and end the sitcom drought, this should be it.
OUT OF PRACTICE
Timeslot: 9:30, Monday
The plot: Eccentric family of doctors struggles to get along with each other and their divorcing parents (Henry Winkler and Stockard Channing).
Exec producers: Joe Keenan, Christopher Lloyd
What works: From two “Frasier” alums, show emulates some of that long-running hit’s smart quips and farcical antics.
What doesn’t: Hard to convey that in promotion or even in explaining what the show is about, which might make it difficult to attract viewers.
Bottom line: With its strong lead-in, “Out of Practice” has a shot but also has the pressure to perform in one of the cushiest time periods in primetime.
Timeslot: 9, Friday
The plot: Aliens have landed in the Atlantic Ocean, and a group of government operatives must prepare for a possible invasion.
Exec producers: David Heyman, David Goyer and Brannon Braga
What works: Strong special effects, excellent cast and nice change of pace from CBS’ usual dramas.
What doesn’t: With all of the sci-fi hitting the airwaves this fall, jury’s out on whether viewers are anxious for it.
Bottom line: Nice stab by CBS, but the show’s expense might be too much if it gets just middle-of-the-road viewer returns.
Premiere: Sept. 25
Timeslot: 7, Sunday
Storyline: Investigative reports from around the world
Premiere: Sept. 27 (eighth edition)
Timeslot: 9, Tuesday
Cast changes: None
Storyline: Ten teams trek across the globe.
Premiere: Sept. 25 (season 3)
Timeslot: 8, Sunday
Cast changes: Sarah Brown joins.
Storyline: A female detective works crimes that went unsolved.
Premiere: Sept. 22 (season 6)
Timeslot: 9, Thursday
Cast changes: Wallace Langham and Louise Lombard join
Storyline: Griffin’s team is back, while Warrick surprises everyone with how he spent the summer.
Premiere: Sept. 21 (season 2)
Timeslot: 10, Wednesday
Cast changes: Anna Belknap and Ron Yuan guest star
Storyline: Dr. Sheldon Hawkes moves out of the coroner’s office and becomes a detective.
Premiere: Sept. 19 (season 4)
Timeslot: 10, Monday
Cast changes: Rex Linn joins the cast. Eva LaRue has a recurring role.
Storyline: A secret from Horatio’s past explains his determination to always catch the bad guy.
KING OF QUEENS
Premiere: Sept. 19 (season 8)
Timeslot: 8, Monday
Cast changes: None
Storyline: Doug and Carrie decide on marriage counseling.
Premiere: Sept. 20 (season 3)
Timeslot: 8, Tuesday
Cast changes: Cote de Pablo joins. Lauren Holly appears in a recurring role.
Storyline: The hunt begins for Kate’s killer as a new NCIS director moves into office.
Premiere: Sept. 23 (season 2)
Timeslot: 10, Friday
Cast changes: Diane Farr and Dylan Bruno join the cast.
Storyline: Don and Charlie discover a plan to assassinate a Colombian exile.
Premiere: Sept. 21 (season 4)
Timeslot: 8, Wednesday
Cast changes: None
Storyline: Brian returns from a summer abroad.
Premiere: Sept. 15
Timeslot: 8, Thursday
Storyline: Contestants compete in the “Mayan empire.”
TWO AND A HALF MEN
Premiere: Sept. 19 (season 3)
Timeslot: 9, Monday
Cast changes: Martin Sheen guest stars.
Storyline: The guys deal with living together while raising Jake. Berta stirs up trouble by moving into the house.
WITHOUT A TRACE
Premiere: Sept. 29 (season 4)
Timeslot: 10, Thursday
Cast changes: Roselyn Sanchez joins in a recurring role.
Storyline: A former cop is brought in as a new agent to help the team.
Premiere: Sept. 21 (season 6)
Timeslot: 8:30, Wednesday
Cast changes: None