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Fall comes early for Eye

Sked settles in as net reups frosh trio

CBS is getting a head start on the upfronts, bestowing early second-season pickups on a trio of frosh skeins and serving up greenlights for 11 other established series.

Move comes a full two months before the Eye officially unveils its 2006-07 schedule and a little more than a week before the net meets with advertisers for its annual pre-upfront development briefings. CBS has used the mass pickup strategy before, both as a means to generate positive PR buzz as well as to allow showrunners to get a head start on cast changes and storyline planning.

Frosh skeins greenlit for next season are 20th Century Fox TV laffer “How I Met Your Mother” plus dramas “Ghost Whisperer” and “Criminal Minds.” Latter two skeins are co-productions between Touchstone and CBS Paramount Network Television.

Three newcomers have all helped CBS improve its ratings in their respective timeslots, while two of the three — “Mother” and “Ghost Whisperer” — are also notable because they’re not crime dramas.

“All three shows have performed well in their time periods, and creatively, they’ve grown and evolved and really defined themselves,” CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler told Daily Variety. “This is our vote of confidence in them.”

Unsurprisingly, all three flavors of the “CSI” franchise — original recipe, “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” — have been given the go-ahead for next season, as have crime drama colleagues “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case,” “NCIS” and “Numbers.”

Elsewhere in the “duh” file, Eye has committed to another season of its top comedy (“Two and a Half Men”), its top newsmag (“60 Minutes”) and its top two unscripted skeins (“Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”).

All told, Eye has now locked in 13 hours of programming for a primetime lineup that usually includes 20 hours of originally programming and two hours of repeats on Saturdays.

More telling than the shows renewed by CBS are those skeins that haven’t made yet the cut.

Newbies not yet picked up for next season include laffers “Out of Practice” and “Courting Alex” as well as the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama “Close to Home.”

Veteran comedies “The King of Queens” and “Still Standing” are still on the bubble. The lack of new talent agreements with the main stars of “Queens” may be one reason for that show’s bubble status — though the Eye may also be looking to see how Julia Louis-Dreyfus does in her sitcom return in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” next week.

And while “48 Hours” has done yeoman’s work on Saturday nights, CBS brass is sticking by tradition, making the newsmag wait a bit longer to find out its fate.

Tassler said the bubble shows all remain “very much in contention” and that the skeins picked up Monday “were just the more obvious choices.”

Meanwhile, after years of dodging bullets, long-running laffer “Yes, Dear” has been officially canceled, an Eye rep confirmed. Midseason dramedy “Love Monkey,” pulled after three episodes, is still technically in limbo but remains a long shot for renewal by CBS.

Assuming CBS will continue to program repeats and/or “48 Hours” on Saturdays, net still needs to lock in six more hours of programming for the fall. That includes two hours on Sundays, where odds favor the Eye dropping its weekly movie franchise in favor of series.

Eye has had some success recently airing crime drama repeats on Sunday opposite ABC’s powerhouse lineup. Even opposite Sunday’s Oscars, the Sunday crimestoppers performed better among adults 18-49 than many original longform presentations this season.