CBS: Reaching Out to Women With Comedy and Character-Driven Drama


A long-desired new night of comedy and five new shows will highlight the CBS schedule this fall, but the network is also trying to ramp up its push toward women. Known in recent years for its often-gritty crime dramas, the network wants to incorporate more shows that either feature strong female leads, or just focus more on character-driven shows.

"Women drive network television, there is no mystery about that," says Entertainment President Nina Tassler. "We said, how can we build on [our strength] and put on more female faces?"

Thus, the network introduced a drama like The Ex List, about a woman who learns from a psychic that she has already met the man she is supposed to marry, and sets off trying to find him. And the network, which has in recent years wanted to expand its strong Monday night comedy slate into a second night, will open Wednesday with back-to-back comedies next season. The New Adventures of Old Christine will lead into a Jay Mohr sitcom called Project Gary.

But the move was possible because of the success of the Monday comedy block, which next fall will be joined by Worst Week, a comedy about a guy with bad luck that played very well at the network's upfront presentation in New York.

Last year there was a lot of talk that CBS wanted to find some buzz as it introduced a vampire show (Moonlight) and a musical drama (Viva Laughlin), neither of which lasted. Coming off a strike and with the network's crime dramas not getting any younger, this year CBS execs say they just wanted to concentrate on making solid shows.

Of veteran shows that were considered on the bubble, comedies How I Met Your Mother, Old Christine and Rules of Engagement will return, as well as drama The Unit. In addition to Moonlight, James Woods's drama Shark was among the ones that didn't make the cut.

Eleventh Hour, a science-based drama from Jerry Bruckheimer, and The Mentalist, a crime drama featuring actor Simon Baker, are also new on the fall schedule.

Coming at midseason will be drama Harper's Island, with a 13-episode order for the Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) project about a group of people who run into trouble when they attend a wedding on an island.

Boldest Move: Opening a second night of comedy is no easy task, but it looks like a good play.

Best Bet: Worst Week and The Mentalist clips played really well at Carnegie Hall.

Biggest Risk: Character-driven procedurals on CBS? We'll see.