CBS

Network branches out to attract more viewers

Crime is down in Television City, and Nina Tassler is betting that’s a good thing.

CBS’ entertainment prexy has made diversifying the Eye’s sked her life’s mission, arguing the net needs to go beyond the strong base it has built on the back of police procedurals. The result is a new fall sked that, while hardly radical, features an unusually eclectic lineup.

One show sports characters who sing some of their dialogue (“Viva Laughlin”), while another involves a cop who’s also a vampire. “Cane” is a pretty conventional sudser, but the fact that the Eye is embracing a show with serialized storylines reps a departure for the network of self-contained dramas.

Even the net’s big new reality show — “Kid Nation” — has stirred up controversy over the working conditions for its young participants.

Getting the Eye’s base of conservative heartland viewers to embrace these newcomers will be tough. While overdoing the same creative premise can kill a network (ask NBC), straying too far from the familiar can likewise be fatal — a lesson CBS learned a decade ago when it last tried to get younger (three words: “Central Park West.”)

Tassler says the net has no choice but to try to shake things up.

“Some of them will fail and some of them will succeed,” Tassler said of the new shows during an appearance at the TV Critics Assn. summer press tour in July. “But it’s not an either/or choice. … If they do fail, I don’t think it’s going to be because they were so daring and different.”

SPOTLIGHT: CANE

Some early descriptions of “Cane” compared the show to “The Sopranos,” but there’s actually much more of a “Dallas” vibe to the Eye’s Jimmy Smits sudser.

The tale of a close-knit Cuban family that controls a vast sugar cane dynasty, “Cane” doesn’t try to get too ambitious in its storytelling. It focuses on simple themes such as sibling rivalry, adultery, corruption — in other words, all the hallmarks of a classic soap.

What makes the show stand out is a stellar cast, including Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno. “Cane” belongs to Smits, however, and it looks like the actor — who spent several years in development hell before finally signing on to star in and co-executive produce this project — is prepared to launch another hit.

NEW FOR 2007-08

The Big Bang Theory

The logline for this laffer (geeks try to get laid) is less important that who’s exec producing the show. That would be Chuck Lorre, the man behind TV’s top sitcom (“Two and a Half Men”). Expect lots of crude humor, male bonding — and, if history is any guide, solid ratings.

Kid Nation

Thanks to the alleged “controversy,” viewers are well aware of what this show is about: Child prodigies try to build a better society while TV cameras watch. It’s part of the Eye’s attempt to spark a new reality hit, but — bogus scandal aside — getting adults to invest in child’s play has always been a bit of a longshot.

Moonlight

This show is the perfect metaphor for the Eye’s 2007 balancing act: It’s a cop show … where the lead character (Alex O’Loughlin) is a reluctant vampire. While the show sounds at first blush like it should be on the Sci Fi net, there’s a strong love story at the center that should appeal to the Eye’s core demo.

Viva Laughlin

CBS isn’t using these words, but the tagline for this show might as well be: “We’re not ‘Cop Rock!'” Eye execs are hoping viewers will be more accepting of this musical mystery than Steven Bochco’s legendary misfire. Promos for this reworking of the BBC’s “Viva Blackpool” downplay the fact that characters break into song, hoping viewers will be hooked on the small-town intrigue — and special guest star Hugh Jackman.

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