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CBS: Restocking theComedy Coffers - Broadcasting & Cable

CBS: Restocking theComedy Coffers

Network to expand to two-hour block of laughs on Thursday nights
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Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2013

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Click here to view the fall primetime schedule grid.

Click here to view pilot clips and trailers from the networks' new shows.

STRATEGY: Launch the next generation of comedy hits by premiering four new half-hours this fall, including expanding Thursdays to a two-hour comedy block.

Next season, How I Met Your Mother will make its final bows, Two and a Half Men will premiere its 11th season and The Big Bang Theory will enter its seventh, so it's no surprise that finding new comedy was a priority for CBS this development season.

Last week, the network unveiled a fall schedule that includes four new sitcoms and an expansion to a four-comedy block on Thursdays to build off the strength of Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. New sitcom The Millers, starring Will Arnett as a recently divorced man with meddling parents, will get the prime slot after Big Bang, followed by The Crazy Ones starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as father/daughter partners at an ad agency.

Though CBS usually uses a veteran show to launch a newbie, it felt Williams' star power was enough to support Crazy Ones in the key time period. The network hopes moving Men to 9:30 p.m. to lead into Elementary will help grow that sophomore drama the same way it did Person of Interest this season.

"There's maybe one or two actors in Hollywood who could help you launch a 9 o'clock show, and one of those is Robin Williams," Kelly Kahl, executive VP of CBS primetime, said at a press conference last week.

The two other rookie comedies will join CBS' Monday lineup, with HIMYM setting up the single-camera We Are Men, about a group of newly single guys living in a rental complex, and 2 Broke Girls leading into the new Chuck Lorre sitcom, Mom, starring Anna Faris as a newly sober single mother.

In addition to launching comedies, picking up projects from its own studio was "very important," according to CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. Currently the network's most successful half-hours -- Big Bang, Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls -- are from Warner Bros. Television, meaning CBS does not profit from their lucrative syndication deals. Of the network's four new fall comedies, two -- We Are Men and The Millers -- are from CBS Television Studios.

With the focus on comedy, CBS will only launch one new drama this fall: Hostages, starring Toni Collette as a surgeon whose family is taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) the night before she is scheduled to operate on the president. The show will air on Monday at 10 p.m. In a shift for CBS, the suspense thriller is set for a shortened 15-episode run. Another new drama, Intelligence, starring Josh Holloway, is set to replace Hostages in midseason with 13 episodes.

While Tassler stressed "we are in the 22-episode business," the network agreed to Hostages' producers' wishes for 15 episodes because of its highly serialized storytelling and the opportunity to get more originals on Monday nights. "It is better for the show if we do 15," Tassler said, adding, "The goal this year was to have more originals, fewer repeats."

With Thursday growing to four comedies, Person of Interest moves to Tuesday at 10 p.m. following NCIS and NCIS: LA, putting television's three most-watched dramas on the same night. Returning drama Hawaii Five-0 shifts to Fridays between Undercover Boss and Blue Bloods, where CBS execs hope its Monday audience will follow it.

Wednesdays remain completely intact with Survivor, Criminal Minds and CSI, as do Sundays with 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race, The Good Wife and The Mentalist, representing the stability CBS touts to advertisers. "We don't want to change every night. We don't want to change nights that are working," Kahl said.

That stability helped CBS to its first ratings victory among adults 18-49 since the 1991-92 season (though it has been No. 1 in total viewers for 10 of the last 11 seasons), and it's a crown the network doesn't plan on ceding any time soon.

"We didn't just look at what looks good this September. We tried to be forward-looking, trying to see what's going to be good for the fall next season," Kahl said.

Filling out CBS' bench are three series that remain on tap for midseason --returning comedy Mike & Molly (which still has a full 22-episode order), new romantic comedy Friends With Better Lives and new southern legal drama Reckless.

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

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