Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018 Upfront Questions: CBS

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.

On each night, you can see the network's average 2017-18 ratings with its most frequent occupant in three different sub-sections of the year: "fall" (premiere week through December 31), "winter" (January 1 to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time) and "spring" (the start of DST through Thursday, May 3). You can also switch from the A18-49 ratings to the True ratings, which should make the comparisons across nights and across the season a bit more fair.

Last week's Renewology was the SHOW-centric portion, drilling more into the merits of individual shows: CBS Renewology

More Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW


fallKevin Can WaitMan with a PlanSuperior Donuts9JKLScorpion0.93
winterKevin Can WaitMan with a PlanSuperior Donuts9JKLScorpion0.97
springKevin Can WaitMan with a PlanSuperior DonutsLiving BiblicallyScorpion0.79

Question: Is a comedy cutback coming?

Look, historically I have been a comedy expansionist. I am always flummoxed why people treat the number of "comedy hours" like this sacred thing when the ratings are begging for more of them. But if anything, I'm in the opposite position in this case. The Kevin Can Wait / Man with a Plan / Superior Donuts trio isn't cutting it. If CBS wants to stick with two-hour Monday comedy, they need a big jolt to the night.

Can the Murphy Brown revival and somehow mixing Mom in be enough of a jolt? It's hard in the Roseanne afterglow to discount any revivals, but if it is limited to 13 episodes, I don't think Mom would move the needle enough at midseason to keep CBS from ending up in a similar situation in the winter and spring, for the third year in a row. And the Monday 9/8c hour can be a good drama opportunity, as the early years of Scorpion can attest.

So I would say keep it at two hours only if they want to break up the Sheldon-verse (more on that later) or if there's a really promising new comedy alongside Murphy that can hold things together later in the season. Another option is to go with two hours in the fall and lose one at midseason when Murphy wraps; that's arguably what NBC should've done with Will and Grace this year.


fallNCISBullNCIS: New Orleans1.21
winterNCISBullNCIS: New Orleans1.20
springNCISBullNCIS: New Orleans1.12

Question: Is it time to use the NCIS lead-in for something else?

It's a good lead-in, so it always has to be asked. The two drama launch pads that CBS yanked open last year (Wednesday 9/8c and Sunday 8/7c) may be available once again, so there may not be quite as much of a need to get creative this year. But Bull is two years old now, and even NCIS: New Orleans only had the slot for two years...


fallSurvivorSEAL TeamCriminal Minds1.30
winterThe Amazing RaceSEAL TeamCriminal Minds1.09
springSurvivorSEAL TeamCriminal Minds1.17

Question: Is CBS in for the long haul with SEAL Team?

Probably the most interesting scheduling question on the CBS drama side is what happens with the sophomore SEAL Team, which is not doing that well leading out of the still stout Survivor. I've seen some suggestions SEAL Team gets moved into one of the other drama launch-pad opportunities like Tuesday at 9:00 or Sunday at 8:00. Personally, I see all those slots as kinda equivalent (at least in the fall), so they may as well just save a timeslot move and leave SEAL where it is if they're going to do something like that. The other option is that SEAL gets an actual downgrade, like Wednesday 10/9c, Monday 10/9c, or later on Tuesday/Sunday. That's the best choice for the overall ratings picture, opening up another good opportunity for a new drama, but it's unclear if CBS would want to do that to a sophomore from its own studio.


fallThe Big Bang TheoryYoung SheldonMomLife in PiecesS.W.A.T.1.57
winterThe Big Bang TheoryYoung SheldonMomLife in PiecesS.W.A.T.1.66
springThe Big Bang TheoryYoung SheldonMomLife in PiecesS.W.A.T.1.38

Question: Will the Sheldon shows stay put?

CBS losing Thursday Night Football probably means the end of The Big Bang Theory making brief stops on Monday before returning to Thursday. That was always a much-welcomed boost for Monday night, which has never really been the same since the days of How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. But as Monday has gotten increasingly dire this year, it's worth asking if that boost is still imperative, and maybe even imperative for the full season. The idea would be to jump-start Monday with either The Big Bang Theory or Young Sheldon, while the other will be just fine holding down the fort on Thursday.

In my mind, this really comes down to how likely it is that Big Bang can continue beyond 2018-19. If Big Bang is definitely done, it's probably prudent to spend another year really shoring up Young Sheldon as the heir to the CBS comedy tradition, rather than making a quick one-year fix on Monday. If it's definitely continuing for a few more years, now you have an interesting discussion. If CBS can get something big out of Murphy Brown and maybe throw in another respectable new show, they may suddenly be cooking with real gas across an entire four-hour comedy schedule, which is a potential game-changer. I don't have any inside info but have always guessed that Big Bang's days were numbered, in which case I'd keep the giants together with a newbie at 9/8c (and one of Mom or Life in Pieces at 9:30). The alternative is definitely fun to think about.


fallMacGyverHawaii Five-0Blue Bloods0.93
winterMacGyverHawaii Five-0Blue Bloods0.95
springMacGyverHawaii Five-0Blue Bloods0.84

Question: Does anything get changed?

It goes along with what I said about Tuesday, except there's even less of a lead-in incentive with Friday.


fall60 MinutesWisdom of the CrowdNCIS: Los AngelesMadam Secretary1.13
winterWisdom of the CrowdNCIS: Los AngelesMadam Secretary0.77
springInstinctNCIS: Los AngelesMadam Secretary0.76

Question: What will get the football-inflated 60 Minutes lead-ins?

And... this one also goes in tandem with the other drama-related questions. It could be an exile from earlier in the week like NCIS: New Orleans or SEAL Team, depending on how CBS wants to use the NCIS and Survivor lead-ins, or they could just try another newbie here and try to capitalize on the NFL benefit.

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