Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2014 Upfront Answers, CBS

Last week, I asked "Upfront Questions" to preview each network's fall 2014 schedule. With the schedule now official, here are the "Upfront Answers"!

CBS' upfront previews: True Power Rankings | Upfront Questions

Other Upfront Answers: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-8:30 PM              THE BIG BANG THEORY/2 Broke Girls
8:30-9:00 PM              Mom (NT)
9:00-10:00 PM            SCORPION (N)
10:00-11:00 PM          NCIS: Los Angeles (NT)

My Question: How much veteran help does a post-How I Met Your Mother Monday need?

As recommended, it will get that veteran help in the 10/9c hour, and CBS chose the show that would require the fewest moves. Also as recommended, The Big Bang Theory is on Monday, but only temporarily. And it'll use that time to try to boost the modest sophomore Mom, which a lot of people insist is worthy of such a berth creatively.

But even with both those things happening, it's still a surprising Monday schedule, because CBS broke up its very long-running two-hour Monday comedy tradition. It looked probable after pickup season that CBS was gonna kill a comedy hour. That's what happens when you pick up two comedies and a million dramas. But would it happen on Monday or Thursday? Especially with Scandal now at 9/8c, the Monday hour is the far riper one for a drama. So this is the better choice, at least competition-wise. I was afraid CBS' long-running Monday tradition would win out.

However, once TBBT is gone, it's gonna be the same situation that CBS ran into on Mondays at 10/9c: a modest comedy hour leading into a new drama. Scorpion seems kinda Intelligence-esque, not necessarily the kind of concept that would attract a ton of attention on its own, but we'll see how the trailer looks. CBS had better hope it gets off and running in the early fall.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM              NCIS
9:00-10:00 PM            NCIS: NEW ORLEANS (N)
10:00-11:00 PM          Person of Interest

My Question: Is a third NCIS the only thing that could kick LA out of the cushy slot?

Yes! And it kicks it to Monday, rather than to 10/9c in a tri-NCIS night. I like that decision, but I was not confident it'd happen.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM              Survivor
9:00-10:00 PM            Criminal Minds
10:00-11:00 PM          STALKER (N)

My Question: Could CBS' development keep Wednesday intact for a little longer?

Nope. Even amid a bunch of unexpected developments, CSI to Sunday just made too much sense not to happen. And Kevin Williamson's Stalker seems like a pretty perfect fit with Criminal Minds, even if it will be a rather gruesome two-hour experience.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-8:30 PM              The Big Bang Theory (RTP) (As of Oct. 30)  
8:30-9:00 PM              The Millers (As of Oct. 30)
9:00-9:30 PM              Two and a Half Men (As of Oct. 30)
9:30-10:00 PM            THE McCARTHYS (N) (As of Oct. 30)
10:00-11:00 PM          Elementary (As of Oct. 30)

My Question: Which comedy gets The Big Bang Theory's lead-in once football is over?

Sigh. It's The Millers.

It's pretty clear from pickup season that CBS had its second miserable comedy development season in three years. It's not quite the crushing blow that it was two years ago when the returnee comedy strength was so massive, but it's still pretty bad that they felt The Millers was their best option for this slot. How I Met Your Dad and The Odd Couple both missing out on CBS' fall schedule is one of the biggest upfront surprises in recent memory, and not in a good way. And one would think even The McCarthys would beat out The Millers if CBS had much real hope for it.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM              The Amazing Race (NT)
9:00-10:00 PM            Hawaii Five-0
10:00-11:00 PM          Blue Bloods

My Question: Is there any reason to change anything?

Yes! As I said last week, Undercover Boss has always struggled to churn out a full season of episodes, which is why its slot on the fall schedule didn't seem 100% safe. And as I've pointed out several times this season, The Amazing Race has really had a weak couple of cycles this season. I figured we were a year away from that becoming a factor, but clearly CBS noticed it too and wanted to make better use of the Sunday football overruns. This is unexpected, but it seems pretty reasonable to me.


Fall 2014 Schedule
7:00-8:00 PM              60 Minutes
8:00-9:00 PM              MADAM SECRETARY (N)
9:00-10:00 PM            The Good Wife  

My Question: Will any Sunday option get CBS to move The Good Wife from its "prestigious" 9/8c slot?

Nope. But CBS still saw the value in the Madam Secretary pairing with The Good Wife and got creative, putting Madam Secretary in the 8/7c hour rather than at 10/9c. This means Madam Secretary will have to deal with the same start-time uncertainties always seen on Sunday. However, being at 8/7c, much closer to the NFL lead-in, makes it worth it. We've said in the past that the NFL overruns are a net positive for the first two hours, neutral at best for the 9/8c show, and bad for the 10/9c one.


It's clear from the news coming out of the conference call that CBS is "blaming" this schedule upheaval on Thursday Night Football. But, with the exception of The Big Bang Theory's jerk to Monday and back, I call shenanigans on that. It's only a little over a month of the regular season. What really caused a lot of this was another nightmare in CBS' comedy development. How I Met Your Dad and The Odd Couple both clearly came in well below expectations, with one of them (probably) dead for good and the other held off for some tinkering. That's left them with Monday and Thursday schedules that seem fairly sub-optimal, and it will be up to their new dramas to try to salvage it. Not sure that they could've done a lot better, but it feels disappointing nonetheless.

On the other hand, I'm kind of a fan of the creative Friday/Sunday shifts. The Amazing Race is easily CBS' strongest Sunday property right now, but it's still struggling, and the first half of Sunday is a potentially untapped opportunity during NFL season. This was really the only way to give Madam Secretary a good shot.


Spot said...

With The Odd Couple re-casting two roles, I wonder if CBS will use it in the post-Big Bang Theory timeslot come midseason, especially if The Millers tumbles more.

My favorite duo is Criminal Minds and Stalker.

Spot said...

Best Move: Bumping NCIS: LA to Mondays. It felt like the one no-brainer.

Worst Move: Debuting a new show (Madam Secretary) on Sunday wouldn’t be objectionable if it would get the occasional NFL overrun as a direct lead-in. Instead it has to hope that audience sticks through 60 Minutes first.

Other Thoughts: My first one was “Whoa.” CBS is breaking up its Monday comedy block? This is just as big as when NBC did it on Thursdays with The Apprentice ten years ago. The Monday 9:00 hour will not have a sitcom on any network for the first time in several decades. I think we all assumed that it was Thursday that seemed primed for a reduction, especially since CBS lacked another anchor like TBBT or HIMYM and the knowledge of all the drama pickups. Development on this end must have been just as bad as it was for the 2012-2013 season when Partners was the number one pick; I guess How I Met Your Dad is the NCIS: Red of sitcoms. The Eye is banking on the hour-long format to be more ascendant a la 2004-2005.

CBS did find a way to help the Undercover Boss problem since the show seems to only have enough gas for 15-16 episode runs. Moving The Amazing Race was not what I expected. Moving from Fridays to Sundays is for the most part a lateral move as Spot has suggested previously, but I have the feeling that’s more true for the old-skewing dramas instead of (the relatively) youthful Amazing Race.

On the whole, this schedule feels older-skewing. It definitely fits in CBS’ wheelhouse. There's more, and more known, quantities waiting in the wings so they don't have to let a Hostages play out the string. And I was definitely right in that I expected some surprise.

Grade: B

Spot said...

It's a waste that CBS has several weeks of reruns Wednesdays at 8:00 in January and February when viewing levels are higher. If The Amazing Race was going to move, I would have done a timeshare with Survivor but just had the editions have fewer teams/players or have some two-hour episodes to cut down on drama reruns for later in the season. For example:

September-December: Survivor
January-February: The Amazing Race with a double-length premiere and finale
March-May: Survivor with a double-length premiere and finale/after-show

One positive of the move: I will start watching The Amazing Race again because it'll have a dedicated timeslot not influenced by sports overruns.

Spot said...

So they won't have sitcoms on Mondays @ 9 for the first time in forever? Wow!

Spot said...

This is drama-centric schedule. CBS wants fo find some new drama hit(s). Those can earn them $100 million in just 4 years of first-airing. Plus multiply it by (at least) 2x for syndication money, plus add 10s of millions for each year behind 4th season. So, CBS ordered seasons of16 dramas, and increased fall drama hours from 11 to 13. To fit all those dramas they're pushing around some reality shows. Those are also valuable inventory - costing much less than dramas, yet producing comparable ratings, and thus bringing in respectable ads money. Yes, move to Friday might weaken TAR. But they're prepared to lose some money with the move. Is it justified?

I think it is, because their No1 drama (NCIS) is entering into 12th season. Their only other big drama hit (Criminal Minds) is entering 10th season. Their only other drama hit (NCIS: Los Angeles) is entering 6th season. They really need some new blood, and for that reason I think this is good schedule. If they had more drama hits and/or some of those would be younger shows, then I would agree with you. Then it would be unnecessary treating of their unscripted properties like redheaded stepchildren. But as it is, I welcome their aggressive search for new drama hits.

Spot said...

Since 1985, apparently.

Spot said...

Let me get this straight. You called moving The Goldbergs from behind a plodding supernatural drama to a situation that actually makes sense "cowardly," yet CBS gives the best lead-in on network TV back to The Millers, a show that routinely squanders almost half of it, and nary a peep.

Spot said...

They are sticking a new drama on every night Sun-Wed. Based on their recent years' track record with new dramas, I say good luck with that...

Mon- NCIS:LA is the right choice for 10pm. It will limit success for State of Affairs combined with a declining Voice. Scorpion at 9pm will have a good lead in (until November), but a strong Sleepy Hollow will drag on its A18-49. Unless the show hits strongly or SH collapses (anything can happen on FOX)

Tues- NCIS has fought off TV well and no Shield here means even less competition so I would expect NCIS to be up season on season. Which is good because NCIS:NOLA will need it. I expect NOLA to be a few ticks below LA, but I'm a pessimist on this show.

Wed- 10pm is a good slot to launch a new show since ABC is sitting this out. Kevin Williamson + CM will make sure this gets sampled at least initially. CPD may capitalize on this if it doesn't click with viewers. I wonder if a CM/Stalker combo will be too much darkness for CBS viewers? Guess we'll know before year end.

Thurs- So the Millers WILL BE SYNDICATED!!!. McCarthys will be replaced by Mike & Molly by year end.

Friday- Amazing Race is a genius move, whole night will get a boost from it I bet.

Sunday- MS will rate lower than Amazing Race and then trend down to TGW. CSI will trend down to Mentalist ratings over time. How many epsiodes of CSI have been ordered before they flip to Cyber?

Worst case scenario: If all these shows crash, CBS may have nothing over 2.0 from Spring from 9-11pm (except maybe NOLA and TAAHM).

Spot said...

At CBS Earnings Call, February 12th, Les Moonves stated The Big Bang theory would lead-in into The Millers next season. It's CBS business decision (because of syndication money), and the one that is known for almost 3 months. There's really nothing to discuss about it. At least not 3 month too late.

Exact quote:
Owning The Millers, the #1 new comedy on television, is something we own 100%. We haven't had a hit comedy, since Everybody Loves Raymond, that we were a participant in, in a major way. So the fact that The Millers is going to be around a while and clearly is doing very well, leads to a fairly big number.

Spot said...

Correction, the 2 hour comedy block goes back to 1985. Supposedly the 9pm hour being comedy goes back to the 1950s.

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