Speculation flies over CBS schedule

'Mentalist,' 'NCIS' spinoff in flux

Will “The Mentalist” mastermind a move to Thursday? Where will “The Good Wife” wind up practicing?

These and other burning skedding questions will be answered first thing Wednesday morning when CBS unveils its 2009-10 primetime lineup. Until then, we’ll try to channel some of “Mentalist” Patrick Jane’s powers of deduction and take a stab at solving CBS’ primetime puzzle.

The hot topic in net circles in the wake of ABC and NBC’s sked announcements Tuesday was whether CBS would move this season’s hot frosh “Mentalist” to the Thursday 10 p.m. slot behind “CSI.”

Such a move would certainly bolster the Eye’ Thursday fortunes. It’s had no luck in the post-“CSI” berth since the heyday of “Without a Trace” several seasons back. On the other hand, CBS might want to keep “Mentalist” in its Tuesday 9 p.m. berth to use it as a launching pad for a new show.

But there’s also speculation that Tuesday will become “NCIS” territory from 8-10 p.m. with the mothership and its still-untitled spinoff starring LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell.

The thinking is that the Eye can bank on the star power and built-in awareness of the spinoff to slot it at 8 p.m., followed by the original, which can then seed a new drama at 10 p.m. That newbie will more than likely be either “Three Rivers,” the organ transplant vehicle starring “Moonlight’s” Alex O’Loughlin, or “Good Wife,” starring Julianna Margulies as a determined defense attorney.

“Good Wife” is known to be the favorite of the Eye’s newborn dramas this year so look for it to get a lot of love, as in an “NCIS” lead-in. CBS’ other confirmed drama order, “Miami Trauma,” is believed to be in reserve for midseason (and possibly some retooling). The same goes for the reality show greenlighted, “Undercover Boss.”

Wednesday seems likely to stay with comedies in the opening hour. “Gary Unmarried,” which squeaked by with a sophomore season renewal, may be rerouted from Wednesday 8:30 p.m. to Monday night for a sink-or-swim test to see whether the Jay Mohr starrer has legs with a stronger lead-in.

The returning “New Adventures of Old Christine” and newcomer “Accidentally on Purpose” seem to be a natural pair for the Wednesday 8-9 p.m. hour, as both are femme-centric. At the same time, Eye execs are high on the potential of the Jenna Elfman starrer and might want to give it more support with a Monday berth.

Friday seems to be the natural landing spot for “Medium,” the reality-bending drama that the Eye is about to inherit from NBC. It certainly would be a tonal fit with the Eye’s 8 p.m. anchor on the night, “Ghost Whisperer.” And from the why-mess-with-success department, “Numbers” seems sure to return to the 10 p.m. slot it has anchored for five seasons.

The same sentiment goes for the return of “The Amazing Race” and “Cold Case” to their regular Sunday 8-10 p.m. slots. Eye execs are not known for shuffling shows just for the fun of it, though perhaps “Race” would take a break in the fall and “Undercover Boss” slips in to the slot.

After 37 years, not even an act of God could dislodge “60 Minutes” from the Sunday 7 p.m. berth. (Fun fact: “60 Minutes” aired Tuesdays at 10 p.m. in its first three seasons.)

So that leaves only the Sunday 10 p.m. vacancy, which seems destined to be a “Flashpoint” for the returning Canuck-produced drama to move into the slot formerly occupied by “The Unit.”