Take Me To The Upfronts: CBS

In All, Television by David

Welcome back Take Me To The Upfronts. In the first part of this series I took a look at ABC’s offerings. Now I will highlight what CBS brought to the table this year. Also, before we start you can still see my thoughts on the pilots that vied for spots this season here and here. Let’s get to it.

Monday
8 p.m. — The Big Bang Theory/Kevin Can Wait
8:30 p.m. — Kevin Can Wait/Man With the Plan (October)
9 p.m. — 2 Broke Girls
9:30 p.m. — The Odd Couple
10 p.m.  — Scorpion

Tuesday
8 p.m. — NCIS
9 p.m. — Bull
10 p.m. — NCIS: New Orleans

Wednesday
8 p.m. — Survivor
9 p.m.  — Criminal Minds
10 p.m.  — Code Black

Thursday (through Oct. 20)
8 p.m. — Thursday Night Football

Thursday (starting Oct. 27)
8 p.m. — The Big Bang Theory
8:30 p.m. — The Great Indoors
9 p.m. — Mom
9:30 p.m. — Life in Pieces
10 p.m. — Pure Genius

Friday
8 p.m. — MacGyver
9 p.m. — Hawaii Five-0
10 p.m. — Blue Bloods

Saturday
8 p.m. — Crimetime Saturday

Sunday
7 p.m.  — 60 Minutes
8 p.m. — NCIS: Los Angeles
9 p.m. — Madam Secretary
10 p.m — Elementary

Not Scheduled: Doubt, Training Day, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,Undercover Boss and Amazing Race

Initial Analysis:

  • CBS knows what’s it doing, and at this point whatever they decide to do will work, because CBS only seems to err when taking chances that might ultimately make the network relevant for people under the age of, oh, I’ll be generous and say 40. Michael Weatherly left NCIS, and immediately found a new CBS show to star in that is now airing right after NCIS, so that’s something. What’s that you say? My eye is twitching? That’s because CBS is doing a show dealing with psychology. Don’t worry, I am sure CBS won’t fuck that up, and if they do, the audience will totally notice. Twitch twitch. Let’s just move on. The new CBS comedies are edgy–for 1960. I don’t even know what to make of Pure Genius, and I am sure a TV adaptation of a nuanced movie like Training Day will do so well as a generic procedural on CBS. MacGyver on Fridays is kind of interesting, if only because it will possibly introduce younger audiences to the majesty that is Tom Selleck’s mustache. Oh, and Katherine Heigl will return to television eventually in Doubt, which will be fun because it will remind everyone that she is still around, even if it’s only to star in a show that had to be recast and rebooted, which I am suuuuuure won’t be a problem. Just like I am totally sure that I’m excited for everything CBS has to offer me. Okay, the sarcasm has gone too far. Let’s just move on.

Decisions that made me happy and/or excited (or in this case of CBS, feel anything at all):

Picking Up of MacGyver

  • There are slim pickings here, honestly, but this is at least a show that seems to be trying to skew younger, even if it is nostalgia bait for older viewers. What’s more is that CBS put it on Fridays, which meant the network was willing to try some new blood on a night that has long just been a place for the older set to watch Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods. It at least shows that CBS is trying to think about the future, even if this just seems like a younger version of every other CBS crime procedural. <– The preceding analysis has since been invalidated, because it’s been revealed that basically everything about the show is being jettisoned other than stars Lucas Till and George Eads, so maybe things will look a little different when it actually airs. Hard to say what this will be, but at least CBS isn’t simply giving up on trying new things after Supergirl and Limitless didn’t entirely go as planned. To be fair, CBS has always been willing to take chances (Moonlight, Intelligence, Viva Laughlin, Under the Dome, etc), but the problem is generally that the network then insists on forcing those unique concepts to be as much like every other CBS show as possible, which rarely works (outside of I guess Person of Interest) and then quickly canceling the show when it inevitably fails to meet expectations that never should have existed. MacGyver at least looks like a compromise, something that is slightly riskier, but can be made to be like other CBS shows without too much trouble. This shouldn’t really be a cause for celebration, but it is a step in the right direction, so kudos. I guess.

Scorpion still exists

Yep, this happened in the show.

  • I’ve talked about Scorpion before; it’s kind of awesome and terrible all at the same time, while still having just the right amount of CBS genericness to it. Still, it at least tries to appeal to a younger demographic, and the result is pretty fun, so its continued existence is appreciated. Sure, it remains scheduled on a weird night with CBS comedies, and sure, it would have paired well with MacGyver and the unfortunately canceled Limitless, but, well, take what you can get, I guess, because actually expecting this show to be paired with complementary programs is way too much to ask.  The ratings for this show are pretty solid, so CBS isn’t going to mess with it, and that is probably for the best. If they did and the show struggled, CBS would cancel it, as opposed to moving it back to when it worked, time slot-wise. So my lukewarm approval for this show existing is about as strong an endorsement as I can give to CBS.

Trying NCIS: LA on Sunday

  • Okay, I really am stretching now. But I have always found it fascinating that for a network that resists changing up its schedule, it has has always been willing to move NCIS: LA all around its schedule because, no matter when it airs, it’ll be watched. This upcoming season, CBS is giving Sunday a shot for NCIS: LA, combining naval cops, the Secretary of the State, and Sherlock Holmes into one weird, random as hell night of TV. CBS doesn’t really do random, so that is exciting. Of course, it is also telling that CBS didn’t really have a Good Wife replacement, which is kind of what Madam Secretary was created to be paired with, so, yeah… But yay, random Sunday night programming!

Decisions that made me sad and/or confused:

Not Picking Up Drew

  • This is a minor quibble, really. I have no idea if this pilot was any good, but at the same time the reasoning behind why CBS doesn’t pick up shows is way different than most networks’. CBS has different rating standards, and loathes change, because what they do works, so why bother?. But Drew looked like about the only pilot from this season for CBS that had any real potential, because there was a lot of fun things the show could have done with the concept of an adult Nancy Drew, and the show was at least a step in the right direction of CBS expanding their brand. Instead, the network passed, and it is hard not to feel like this happened because they didn’t think it was the right fit for their network. As CBS’ guiding principle for years now, that reasoning is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because CBS is the only network that actually still gets live viewers, because their viewers are creatures of habit, but a curse because the network has generally put itself into a box in terms of what kind of viewers it can draw (and yeah, I know The Big Bang Theory is the exception, but whatever). This is especially true now that CBS has started CBS All Access, an online hub for their content, which is finally a way for CBS to connect to younger viewers and make shows that don’t care as much about traditional ratings. This will start with Bryan Fuller’s Star Trek reboot and a spinoff for The Good Wife, but Drew would have been a good fit for the online service, too. Instead, Drew is being shopped around to other networks, and CBS is once again left with the most boring schedule ever (okay, MacGyver is a little interesting, but it is still MacGyver, folks).

Canceling Limitless and Shipping Supergirl to The CW

Fly off to The CW, where you are welcomed.

  • I understand the ratings for both of these weren’t perfect, and these shows were really expensive (especially Supergirl), but man, for the first time in years CBS gets some shows that actually could generate buzz, and the network is like, no thanks. No, it could be argued that both of these shows never belonged on CBS in the first place (and I may argue that for one of them in the future), but that just gave CBS a chance to change the way it’s perceived. Limitless had figured out creative ways to make the procedural format work for it, and would have been a good fit alongside MacGyver in a lineup meant to draw younger audiences into the network. Like DrewLimitless would have been a good fit for CBS All Access, but alas, CBS passed on that option as well, and now the show is gone for good. What a wasted opportunity. Meanwhile, Supergirl had finally figured out a lot of things by season’s end, and would really have had a chance to, uh, soar in its second season, especially if CBS would have just let the show be what it is, and not like everything else on CBS. At least Supergirl will live on as a part of The CW, and really, CBS probably just didn’t want to deal with something as off-brand as Supergirl, so for Supergirl as a show this might be the best thing, even if it makes CBS boring once again.

All the New Comedies

  • Hey, look, it’s new comedies on CBS… or should I say comedy, because all three are basically the same God damn show. Basically, insert middle age white male (Matt LeBlanc, Joel McHale, or Kevin James), add in a dash of dealing with young people (in Leblanc’s and James’s case, their kids, while in McHale’s case, millennials), have those characters act like alpha males who reassert male stereotypes that are actively harmful to both men and women, and well, you get all the new CBS comedies. (Strangely, Kevin James’s looks like the least harmful, so it may just be boring.) I mean, what the fuck is this? CBS isn’t even trying. These shows all feel like relics from sitcom past. This is especially disheartening in the case of McHale’s show, The Great Indoors, which on a different network could be a show that examines the difference between millennials and the older generations in a way that rightfully calls both sides out for their issues and then also rightly praises them for their virtues. Instead, it looks like CBS took Jeff Winger from Community and put him in a show that thinks he is awesome as Jeff always thought he was, which means his character will be unbearable and lack the humanizing aspects that made Jeff work. This feels like a show that will just be like, “Aren’t millennials the worst?” as the echo chamber of CBS’s viewership nods in agreement while they fold clothes or whatever else CBS viewers do while pretending to watch television. Whatever! I have given way too many words to these shows, so I’ll just pretend these shows could be better than they appear to be and that CBS can be trusted. What can I say? I like disappointment.

Failed Pilots:

Comedy

Drama

Pilots I Wished Would Have Been Picked Up: Drew

Overall Thoughts:

  • Look, it’s CBS. The network is going to do whatever it wants, and pundits will complain, and people will keep watching CBS anyway. So what does it even matter? CBS has won television. Sure, TV is changing, and CBS is losing that battle, but that’s with young people, and CBS gives no fucks about young people. They can pretend otherwise with things like The Big Bang Theory and MacGyver, but the fact that I just wrote that MacGyver is hip by CBS standards is all that needs to be said. I am certain that CBS will once again have tons of ratings success and cancel a show at the end of the season that every other network would kill to have ratings-wise, and so continue to be shielded from all criticism by the giant money shield that surrounds the network perpetually. I guess I should just be happy that the network is even kind of trying on the drama side, but seriously, CBS, could you have at least pretended to try with your comedies? Just pretend, God damn it.

That’s it for CBS. Next up is its sister network, The CW. It’s made a lot of changes over the years, and basically has been doing the exact opposite of CBS, so it will be interesting to look at what they did for this year’s upfronts. Of course, none of that really matters, because at this point The CW is the super hero network, so who cares about the rest? Well, I do, so you’ll hear about the rest anyhow.