Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, examining the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront. I've always favored laying out the possibilities rather than creating an actual mock schedule; this seems to set up better to review the schedule next week without making it all about how my own prediction/recommendation did. But you can probably get some sense of which way I'm leaning.
Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, in which I drilled more into the merits of individual shows: CBS True Power Rankings
Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW
8:00 - How I Met Your Mother | 2 Broke Girls
8:30 - We Are Men | 2 Broke Girls | Friends with Better Lives
9:00 - 2 Broke Girls | Mike and Molly
9:30 - Mom
10:00 - Hostages | Intelligence
Question: How much veteran help does a post-How I Met Your Mother Monday need?
It's a two-dimensional question. The first is whether The Big Bang Theory, reportedly returning to Monday at least during Thursday Night Football's run, will stay on the night afterwards. It might be workable if CBS had much more of a framework on Thursday. But with only Two and a Half Men (which might itself be ending soon) and shaky The Millers on Thursday, a permanent Big Bang move to Monday hurts that night more than it helps Monday. It also means other shows probably get shifted back and forth between the nights. Not a very CBS way to operate, and those other shows likely would not be as resilient to the jerk-around as would Big Bang.
The more interesting issue is whether CBS moves a veteran drama to the 10/9c hour. Based on how Hostages and Intelligence fared this season, a veteran drama (specifically, a veteran drama named NCIS: Los Angeles) is absolutely the right play here. While such a move most likely will happen, it's not necessarily a lock. After all, they have new show options with brand names in the NCIS spin-off and CSI spin-off. And the network has a rich history of protecting veterans at the expensive of newbies.
8:00 - NCIS
9:00 - NCIS: Los Angeles
10:00 - Person of Interest
Question: Is a third NCIS the only thing that could kick LA out of the cushy slot?
Copying the Tuesday question from last year! The buzz on last year's NCIS: Red always seemed fairly negative, but the conventional wisdom was that it'd still pull through and score a slot... until it didn't. With another spin-off in the works the very next year, it's clear that some powers that be are really invested in this happening. I would guess it's the only thing that could get LA out of this hour, and I'm inclined to believe it will do so this time.
8:00 - Survivor
9:00 - Criminal Minds
10:00 - CSI
Question: Could CBS' development keep Wednesday intact for a little longer?
I've been surprised that some think the three-hour Wednesday lineup will return intact yet again, as CSI seems to be at the perfect point in its life cycle (after two straight seasons with 15%+ drops) to make the move to lower-priority Sunday. CBS' new drama slate might be the key here. Deadline describes Tea Leoni's Madam Secretary as a "lock," and also suggests that both of the crime spin-offs won't be on the fall sked. The political-themed drama seems like a perfect fit with The Good Wife, potentially turning their "prestige hour" on Sunday at 9/8c into a "prestige block."
If I'm CBS, I'd take the point of lead-in juice, the consistent start times and the lighter cable competition over the "fit," even if it's Madam Secretary scoring the second new drama slot. But a pairing with Criminal Minds admittedly feels somewhat awkward, so I don't completely count out CBS trying it on Sunday. If they do, they should be ready to send CSI to Sunday not just in fall 2015 but potentially at midseason, opening the Wednesday hour up in high-HUT January.
And if that second fall drama ends up being anything other than Madam Secretary, CSI to Sunday should be all the more obvious.
8:00 - The Big Bang Theory
8:30 - The Millers
9:00 - The Crazy Ones | Two and a Half Men
9:30 - Two and a Half Men | The Crazy Ones | Bad Teacher
10:00 - Elementary
Question: Which comedy gets The Big Bang Theory's lead-in once football is over?
If CBS badly dislikes their development and is really hellbent on shepherding The Millers to syndication, don't count out a Millers return here. After all, Deadline buzz suggests CBS sees some problems in presumptive front-runner The Odd Couple. However, a new show would be the better choice for overall ratings potential. Newbie is more likely, with Millers bumped to later on Thursday.
8:00 - Undercover Boss | Unforgettable
9:00 - Hawaii Five-0
10:00 - Blue Bloods
Question: Is there any reason to change anything?
Sorry, I try to be biased toward open-mindedness in these posts, but I just can't come up with any Friday scenario I'd consider better than Undercover Boss / Hawaii Five-0 / Blue Bloods. They all pull ratings that are perfectly fine for a low-priority night while not begging for a high-priority night. Even this is not quite a 100% lock, simply because CBS always seems to have trouble churning out a large order for Undercover Boss. So they might try something dumb in the fall and save Boss. But please, CBS, leave 'em alone. Next!
7:00 - 60 Minutes
8:00 - The Amazing Race
9:00 - The Good Wife
10:00 - The Mentalist
Question: Will any Sunday option get CBS to move The Good Wife from its "prestigious" 9/8c slot?
This one is also relatively simple. If a new show actually ends up here, CBS has really got to give it the earlier slot and move The Good Wife to 10/9c. Starting a new show at 10:45 on NFL overrun nights would be beyond ridiculous. Assuming CSI (or another lower-tier veteran) ends up here, I think The Good Wife stays at 9/8c, but I'm only like 85% sure.