Axing its Sunday movie franchise after 22 years, CBS will rely on the “Rhyming Bruckheimers” to get back into the series game.
Eye execs believe the three Jerry Bruckheimer-produced skeins — “The Amazing Race,” “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace” — will be the ace in CBS’ retooled Sunday night strategy.
Preaching stability, CBS revealed a fall schedule Wednesday with few changes beyond the Sunday shuffle — a marked contrast to the major shifts announced earlier in the week by rivals NBC and ABC.
Eye will add just three new dramas (“Shark,” “Smith” and “Jericho”) and one laffer (“The Class”) this fall, and is returning six frosh skeins from last year — the most of any net.
CBS entered the upfronts with few holes on its lineup — and simply filled those gaps rather than move many things around. As a result, the net had already locked in its schedule a week ago.
“It’s very nice going into a scheduling meeting knowing that no matter what anyone else is doing, you’ll probably stay the same,” CBS prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves told reporters Wednesday morning at the net’s Black Rock headquarters.
“I think we’ve taken the right amount of shots,” he said. “We are the most stable network… We have hits on every single night of the week.”
Later, highlighting their new schedule to advertisers at Carnegie Hall, Moonves and CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler stressed the Eye’s No. 1 ranking among total viewers, and in a sharp reversal from years past, refrained from taking jabs at the competition.
Moonves said he expects the newly stocked Sunday night to provide an overall ratings boost to the network. Decision to drop the movie franchise had been anticipated (Daily Variety, May 15).
“We were the last holdout of the Sunday movie, which became on network television a semi-dead art form,” Moonves said. “That’s not to say we won’t do movies, but we’ll do them sporadically and throughout the year as special events.”
Moonves said the dominance of ABC’s Sunday night femme-centric lineup was the final nail in its movie’s coffin.
“(The movies) were geared toward 25-54 year-old women,” he said. “They were softer. Outside of the Tom Selleck movies, not that much worked. We’ll still have ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’ on three times a year. But it was time.”
Moonves said he had no qualms with moving “Trace” to Sunday, particularly now that it won’t face off with ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“The Sunday move is going to be a big move for us,” he said. “Obviously ABC is not going to be as strong without ‘Grey’s’ there. There’s no way they could be. We’re going to be stronger.”
Also Sunday, Eye will bump “Cold Case” up to do battle at 9 p.m. vs. “Desperate Housewives” — which CBS brass noted was down this year. At 8, Emmy winner “The Amazing Race” moves to its fourth home in less than a year. Moonves admits that the show has become “one of the toughest things to schedule.”
“Race” will go into battle without much help from its lead-in, “60 Minutes.” But webheads believe the show is a self-starter, and will recruit an audience at 8 p.m. much like “Cold Case” has done there. Still, the reality skein will now have to do battle with another family-oriented non-scripted entry, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Meanwhile, the relocation of “Trace” to Sunday opened up the plum post-“CSI” slot on Thursday for the first time in several years. Eye opted to slide in the James Woods drama “Shark,” which Moonves said was the Eye’s highest-testing pilot this year.
“We think we can win the night, as we have,” he said.
Moonves said he believed “CSI” and “Grey’s Anatomy” could co-exist fine in the key 9 p.m. Thursday slot.
“Network television has proven when you have two great shows on in the same time period, they don’t cannibalize each other,” he said, adding, “I’m not saying ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ won’t ding ‘CSI’ a bit.”
Moonves said NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” would be hurt the most in the hour — if it stays there.
“If I were Aaron Sorkin, I wouldn’t be happy this morning,” he said. “It’s very tough to compete against two shows that were in the top 5 in all demos up against each other.”
On Monday, CBS will hammock new ensemble comedy “The Class,” from “Friends” co-creator David Crane, at 8:30, between “How I Met Your Mother,” which now leads off the night, and “Two and a Half Men.” And John Wells’ heist thriller “Smith” will air Tuesday at 10, following two-hour drama block “NCIS” and “The Unit.”
“Jericho,” the apocalyptic drama from Jon Turteltraub and starring Skeet Ulrich, is slated for Wednesday nights at 8, replacing “Race” and leading into procedural mainstays “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: NY.”
“Jericho” and “Smith” are more serialized than CBS’ current fare, as the net made a concerted effort to balance out its mix of procedural crime dramas. But Moonves dismissed the ongoing rap that the Eye is too procedural-heavy.
“There’s a reason that our primetime is the most profitable in TV,” he said. “That’s because our shows repeat. We do great week after week — we don’t have huge highs and huge lows. We’re not the manic depressive network.”
The downside of procedurals, however, is they don’t bring as much buzz to a net as the serialized shows, Moonves admitted.
“We don’t get as much noise as everyone else, and we’re human, we like getting the buzz,” he said. “Although I like winning more.”
Mid-season pickups include new dramas “3 Lbs.,” a medical drama toplining Stanley Tucci, “Waterfront,” starring Joe Pantoliano as a mayor in Providence, R.I., and the Adam Sandler-produced relationship comedy “Rules of Engagement.” “The King of Queens” will also return mid-season.
Gone are the comedies “Still Standing,” “Out of Practice,” “Yes, Dear” and “Courting Alex,” while hourlongs “Threshold” and “Love Monkey” are also history.
Also Wednesday, CBS announced that it has signed up with America Online as the on-air partner for “Gold Rush,” the Internet reality skein AOL is developing with Mark Burnett Productions. Show, which premieres this fall, will let viewers search for $2 million in gold hidden around the country.
In addition to planned video programming on AOL.com and clues hidden through AOL properties like instant messenger, CBS will integrate clues to the gold’s location in its shows and on-air commercial spots.
In return, AOL will integrate promotional material for the Eye net’s fall sked into the game.
(Ben Fritz contributed to this report.)
New on CBS
The Class WBTV
Creators/Exec producers: David Crane, Jeffrey Klarik, James Burrows
Stars: Jason Ritter, Heather Goldenhersh, Lizzy Caplan, Sean Maguire, Lucy Punch, Jon Bernthal, Andrea Anders, Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Logline: Third-grade class reunites as adults
Rules of Engagement Sony TV
Creator/Exec producers: Tom Hertz, Andy Ackerman
Stars: Patrick Warburton, Megyn Price, Kathleen Rose Perkins
Logline: Different stages of male-female relationships
Jericho CBS Par
Creator/Exec producers: Stephen Chbosky, Jon Turteltaub, Carol Barbee
Stars: Skeet Ulrich, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Gerald McRaney, Pamela Reed, Ashley Scott
Logline: Life in a small town after a nuclear disaster
Shark 20th, Imagine
Creator/Exec producers: Ian Biederman, Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Ed Redlich
Stars: James Woods, Jeri Ryan, Sarah Carter, Alexis Cruz, Romy Rosemont, Lindsay Frost, Danielle Panabaker, Sam Page
Logline: Celeb L.A. lawyer
Creator/Exec producers: John Wells, Chris Chulack, Brooke Kennedy
Stars: Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Simon Baker, Franky G, Amy Smart, Jonny Lee Miller, Chris Bauer, Michelle Hurd, Shohreh Agdashloo
Logline: A close-knit crew of career criminals
3 Lbs. CBS Par
Creator/Exec producers: Peter Ocko, Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, Paul Stupin, Davis Gug
Stars: Stanley Tucci, Mark Feuerstein, Lorraine Toussaint, Reiko Aylesworth
Logline: Brain surgeon does fellowship under brilliant doctor
Creator/Exec producer: Jack Orman
Stars: Joe Pantoliano, William Baldwin, Mary Stuart Masterson, Larenz Tate, Natalia Cigliuti, Lyndsy Fonseca
Logline: A brilliant but amoral mayor of a mid-size town