CBS wants to have more laughs

New comedy block on Wednesday is fall focal point

With last year’s successful launch of “The Big Bang Theory,” joining hit centerpiece “Two and a Half Men” and solid performers “How I Met Your Mother,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Rules of Engagement” in its arsenal, CBS felt the time was right to add an hour of laughs on Wednesday to its Monday block.

CBS’ plans are ambitious enough that the net is even moving outside of its comfort zone, picking up “Worst Week,” a single-camera half-hour — something the net hasn’t had much success with yet.

“Adding ‘Worst Week’ to Monday nights certainly speaks to a look to the future of comedy at the network,” CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler says.

The decision to expand its comedy presence also comes after a brutal year at the net for dramas. None of last year’s frosh dramas are making return appearances — despite the hype CBS garnered for unique fare like “Viva Laughlin,” “Cane,” “Moonlight” and this summer’s “Swingtown.”

Because of that, CBS this year didn’t stray quite as far from what’s been working.

“Certainly a couple of the (new) shows are more within our wheelhouse,” Tassler says.

But Tassler adds that there’s still an evolution to this year’s new shows, even if it’s a bit more subtle. “The Ex List,” for example, is another stab at a romantic comedy hourlong, while “Eleventh Hour” adds a bit more mythology to the net’s usual procedural.

“We’re doing shows that are within the procedural form, but their sensibility is a bit different,” Tassler says.

SPOTLIGHT: WORST WEEK

Worst Week” might give CBS some of its best marks.

Show has scored the plum post-“Two and a Half Men” timeslot on CBS’ Monday night sked. And it earned some of the biggest laughs from advertisers at the May upfront presentation. Critics are onboard as well.

“It’s about a guy who invites bad karma into his life and basically doesn’t know which way he’s digging when he’s in the hole,” says Hat Trick’s Jimmy Mulville, who produced the original U.K. laffer that’s now being adapted for U.S. auds by scribe Matt Tarses.

“He goes out into extreme situations on our behalf. We don’t want to go there, but we’re very happy to see him go there.”

NEW FOR 2008-2009

ELEVENTH HOUR

It’s familiar territory for Jerry Bruckheimer: the Thursday night 10 p.m. slot behind “CSI.” This time, exec producers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris have concocted a tale (based on a foreign format) about a biophysicist (Rufus Sewell) who examines scientific oddities.

THE EX LIST

Elizabeth Reaser stars as Bella, a thirtysomething single gal who suddenly gets a case of the wannabemarrieds after a psychic tells her she’s already dated her future husband. What’s more, if she doesn’t find him in a year, she’ll be sentenced to a life of raising cats. Diane Ruggiero exec produces.

GARY UNMARRIED

Jay Mohr and Paula Marshall used to be married, now they’re not. Watch the zingers fly and the insults unfurl, followed by a chaser of lessons learned.

THE MENTALIST

CBS can’t get enough of Simon Baker, who this time plays a former fake celeb psychic (no relation to the one from “The Ex List”) using his powers of observation to — yep — solve crimes. It’s what CBS does best. Bruno Heller and David Nutter exec produce.

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