To CBS: A Suggested Fall Schedule (If You Want to Stay on Top)

posted Feb 18, 2013, 10:57 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 20, 2013, 8:33 AM ]

Last week Les Moonves, the grand poobah of CBS, was speaking to analysts about his #1 ranked network. He claimed that they weren’t going to need very much for the fall by way of new programming. 

While CBS is still by far the most stable of the networks in terms of both ratings and programming, such a claim would have been more true a couple of years ago than today.

I started thinking about what CBS is really facing and what I would suggest for the fall. On one hand, there really is only space for one or two new comedies and one or two new dramas. It’s far less than what their competition needs but from my vantage point, a few radical moves are going to be necessary THIS year in order to shore up the next few years. After all, they have upwards to EIGHT shows on their schedule that are approaching, hitting or have already passed the 10-season mark. Plus 60 Minutes (at 45 years and counting).

Then I decided I had to do the same thing for NBC, ABC and FOX -- which I'll post throughout the week. I don’t bother with the CW. I don’t consider that a broadcast network its niche targeting and inability to effectively program TEN primetime hours (less than half that of the Big Three) without resorting to clones and remakes.

These suggested schedules are built on two things: what I think the best pilot premises are and existing shows worth renewing. I largely veered away from concepts that seemed derivative, limited in premise, too high-concept or sounded unnecessarily violent -- where I could. You’ll notice that I am a bit of a purist when it comes to marrying formats together between multi-camera comedies and single-camera comedies.

I don’t take into consideration any existing deals with producers and studios or other financial matters because I either don’t know, don’t care or just abjectly hate the concept they’ve managed to pitch to pilot. I also don’t take into consideration the execution of the pilot because I’m probably not going to be able to see them anyway. Keep in mind that all of this is based on the information I have at my disposal -- largely from 

Lastly, I don’t take into consideration A1849 ratings because it’s an outdated demo that the networks all need to abandon in favor of A35+, a more relevant demographic given the fact that those “valuable and elusive younger viewers” do not watch television the same way adult viewers do AND NEVER WILL.

New shows are highlighted in yellow. Returning shows with new time slots are CAPITALIZED. New show descriptions follow each night with rationale for why a certain show was scheduled for a certain time slot or otherwise moved to a new one.

General network notes come at the end.

We’ll see how my schedules compare to the actual fall schedules when they are unveiled in May.


My suggested schedule for CBS not only maintains stability but also opens up new nights for new comedies, makes better use of the unscripted programs I don’t like seeing on any schedule, rescues struggling programs and gives new programs a fighting chance to not only survive but also to potentially breakout.

So while Moonves thinks he only needs a few shows for the fall, I count six – four comedies and two dramas plus a third drama (or two) slated for midseason.

Here is a link to all the pilots ordered by CBS. See if you agree with my choices.



8pm - How I Met Your Mother / Mom
9pm – 2 Broke Girls / Mike & Molly

Mom: A newly sober single mom tries to pull her life together in Napa Valley. (multi-camera comedy)

- The Good Wife was suffering on Sundays on account of football delays, lack of appeal with the residual male-skewing football audience and general incompatibility with its unscripted lead-in. It’s not an easy show to marry with other shows on the schedule except for Person of Interest, but it shouldn’t be scheduled against the surging and similarly-skewing Scandal on ABC.

- It’s a matriarchal-titled hour from 8 to 9. Mom could easily be placed after The Big Bang Theory on Thursdays but given the Chuck Lorre pedigree right now, Mom might have more breakout potential to lead off the night after How I Met Your Mother goes off the air in 2014.



8pm – NCIS
9pm – NCIS: LA
10pm – NCIS: LA Spinoff

NBC: LA Spinoff: New characters introduced in two-part episode of NCIS: LA will follow a small mobile team of agents who are forced to live and work together as they crisscross the country solving crimes.(drama)

- Another NCIS. I know. But where else would it go? The only choice was to make Tuesday an NCIS night. Besides, Tuesdays at 10pm has been such a trouble slot for the network since Judging Amy was cancelled in 2006 that another NCIS could help further shore up the night.


8pm – The McCarthys / Super Clyde
9pm – Criminal Minds
10pm – CSI

The McCarthys: The big-family comedy revolves around an Irish-Catholic, sports-crazed Boston clan and the gay son whose greatest sin is not his sexuality but his desire to spend less time with his family. (single-camera comedy)

Super Clyde: A meek, unassuming fast food worker who decides to become a super hero. (single-camera comedy)

- For the first time in several years, comedy would return to Wednesday nights with an hour of single cams that share very little by way of description accept for format. I generally like for there to be some correlation between shows that are married to one another in an hour for the purposes of logical flow, but I am making an exception here because this would largely be an experiment for CBS. They haven’t aired a comedy in the time slot in several years and haven’t had much success by way of single-camera comedies. While I would caution CBS to stay away from them given their lack of success in the format, if they’re going to test those waters, they may as well do so on a reasonably strong night for them and avoid trying to break up a night of multi-cams or trying to marry one of their single-cams with a multi-cam.

- This move displaces Survivor, which would move to Sunday nights during football to better absorb football delays than a scripted program and provide better flow for the night than their current mix unscripted/scripted incompatibility.


8pm – The Big Bang Theory / Jacked Up
9pm – Person of Interest
10pm – The Advocates

Jacked Up: A beloved, recently retired baseball player finds that adjusting to retirement isn’t as easy as he thought it’d be. (multi-camera comedy)

The Advocates: A female lawyer and a male ex-con team up as “victim advocates,” going to the very edge of the law to right wrongs and fight for the underdog. (drama)

- If ABC were to move its surging Scandal, I’d put the struggling Good Wife after Person of Interest. With Interest as a lead-in and male/female leads, The Advocates should draw a largely different audience than that of ABC’s promising sophomore female-skewing drama.


8pm – CSI: NY
10pm – Blue Bloods 

- While Elementary performed decently after Person of Interest, the lack of a Super Bowl bump indicates this will be a modest hit for the network. A Friday timeslot on CBS does not indicate lack of support or even a death knell as the network consistently averages just under 10 million viewers on a night largely abandoned by the other networks.

- Though much of these viewers are older, they’re also keeping television afloat as younger viewers don’t watch TV the same way A35+ did and they never will. Older viewers should be more valued by the networks and recognized by the ad agencies as actually having money and accorded more credit for some level of savviness when it comes to new brands and new products. “Older” is not as “old” as it used to be.

- Scheduling Elementary between CSI:NY, which will probably only last another season and Blue Bloods, which is always #1 for the night in total viewers, provides consistency in terms of scripted programming and provides better flow than the revolving door of unscripted programs they schedule at 8pm or 9pm when a new program fails in the time slot. Elementary will not only draw comparable viewership in the 8-10 million viewer range, but has the potential to boost the night as a whole.

8pm – Crime Procedural Encores
9pm – Crime Procedural Encores
10pm – 48 Hours 

- This night hasn’t changed in almost a decade, nor should it. The first two hours are a great way to provide added exposure for new programs. All the networks should utilize trouble time slots for this purpose.



                                                        (Fall)                                                                (Winter/Spring)
                                                        7pm – 60 Minutes                                         7pm – 60 Minutes
                                                        8pm – SURVIVOR                                        8pm – THE MENTALIST
                                                        9pm – THE AMAZING RACE                     9pm – Beverly Hills Cop
                                                        10pm – UNDERCOVER BOSS                    10pm – HAWAII FIVE-O

Beverly Hills Cop: Continuation of the movie franchise, centered around Axel Foley’s police officer son, who takes down the criminal elements of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills. (drama) 

- 60 Minutes is never going away. Nor should it. It’s a reliable ratings generator that flows well out of football with A45+ (and a sprinkling of younger).

- The fall lineup is all unscripted, with the programs that “have to air” because of their competition format leading out of 60 Minutes followed by the more preemptible-if-necessary Undercover Boss.

- Running “must see” unscripted programming out of football creates a viewer urgency to tune in. Football viewers without a vested interest in the teams playing on NBC are more likely to stick around and watch Survivor and Race than Race and The Good Wife. This contingency will vary from week to week depending on the teams playing on NBC.

- Longtime Survivor fans will follow the show anywhere on the schedule. Plus, they’re used to seeing the finales and reunions on Sunday nights anyway. 

- CBS may lose some Survivor fans to Sunday Night Football on NBC, but I expect that any lost viewership will be more than made up by Survivor fans uninterested in football or without a vested interest in any given team during any given week.

- The spring lineup is all scripted with the exception of 60 Minutes. With Sunday Night Football out of the way, NBC is a non-starter. ABC is more campy soapy. FOX has their younger-skewing animation block.

- The Mentalist struggles at 10 leading out of the also-struggling and incompatible Good Wife. Leading off the night into a new series followed by Hawaii Five-O creates a night of light, fun, male-skewing procedurals for those viewers who may feel at a loss after football concludes for the season.

- While I don’t like reboots, Beverly Hills Cop is a perfect companion piece for the Hawaii Five-O reboot that I also don’t like.

General Notes:

- I am making the bold move of holding Two and a Half Men for midseason (along with The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-O) because of the greater need for new comedies to develop into hits for the departing Mother in 2014 as well as Men (possibly in 2014 as well), Bang (likely by 2016) and Rules of Engagement (which will also be held for midseason but could also go at any time). 

- If the new series Golden Boy does well enough to be renewed, I would hold it off for midseason as well.

- I cut down Survivor and The Amazing Race to one cycle for the purposes of continued franchise longevity and to open up valuable time periods. Given the fact that both opened their seasons at franchise lows, this would be a wise move.

Next up:
Tuesday - NBC
Wednesday - ABC
Thursday - FOX