For the last few years, CBS has had a rock-solid schedule, composed of edgy sitcoms, crime dramas and veteran reality programs. Of the last few years, they've only gotten better, adding new favorites 2 Broke Girls, Person of Interest and Blue Bloods to an already busting schedule. A few weeks ago, CBS renewed the majority of its lineup, leaving only a handful of programs with uncertain futures, including sitcoms Rob! and Rules of Engagement, dramas Unforgettable and A Gifted Man and veteran CSI spinoffs from Miami and New York.
So what's left to analyze? Scheduling! CBS has a few glaring problems in its scheduling that could be holding it back from reaching its full potential. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. Let's take a look at a night-by-night breakdown of programming.
8:00 How I Met Your Mother
8:30 2 Broke Girls
9:00 Two and a Half Men
9:30 Mike & Molly
10:00 Hawaii Five-0
Latest Ratings March 19
How I Met Your Mother - 8.15 million / 3.4 demo
2 Broke Girls - 9.19 million / 3.4 demo
Two and a Half Men - 11.34 million / 3.8 demo
Mike & Molly - 9.83 million / 3.2 demo
Hawaii Five-0 - 9.14 million / 2.5 demo
Season Averages - How I Met Your Mother
Season 1 - 9.47 million
Season 3 - 8.21 million
Season 4 - 9.42 million
Season 6 - 8.79 million
Season Averages - Two and a Half Men
Season 1 - 15.31 million
Season 3 - 15.14 million
Season 5 - 13.68 million
Season 7 - 14.93 million
Season 8 - 12.73 million
Season Average - Hawaii Five-0
Season 1 - 11.96 million
Everything's been picked up for next season!
CBS has been toying with the idea of a second block of sitcoms on Thursday nights. This year, they began the process by opening the night with The Big Bang Theory, leading off into another sitcom, followed by two crime dramas. How To Be A Gentleman (do you even remember it existed?) disappeared quickly, while the futures of Rob! and Rules of Engagement depend on each other. It could be one or the other, should CBS decide on expanding Thursday's sitcom slate to two hours. It's risky to go into next season with eight half-hour slots and only five returning hits. A sixth would be beneficial, even if it's a lesser hit in either Rob! or Rules of Engagement.
How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men are likely staying put. Why fix what isn't broken? Sure, the Ashton Kutcher-led Men is diminished, but it's far from out. Meanwhile HIMYM has been starting the Monday night block for the last few seasons. To move it now would be suicide. It's proven itself to the network after a rocky beginning. Mike & Molly may also stay in its 9:30 time slot, as I don't believe it'll be strong enough to survive on its own.
2 Broke Girls is the big hit of the year. It has, on occasion, out-rated Two and a Half Men in the 18-49 demo, a huge feat for a rookie sitcom. The big question mark would be the addition of Jennifer Coolidge to the cast. Ratings are down across the board lately, but could its own smaller numbers mean fans are not taking kindly to the cast addition? In any event, ratings are still great, and all signs point to it moving to Thursdays, perhaps to anchor the night at 9pm, which would provide tremendous support for any new or returning series at 8:30 or 9:30.
Hawaii Five-0 is far from a runaway hit, but numbers don't lie, and the numbers are consistent. It pulls in just enough in total viewers and key demos to justify next season's renewal.
9:00 NCIS: Los Angeles
Latest Ratings March 20
NCIS - 18.61 million / 3.3 demo
NCIS: LA - 16.06 million / 2.8 demo
Unforgettable - 11.32 million / 2.1 demo
Season Averages NCIS
Season 1 - 11.84 million
Season 3 - 15.27 million
Season 5 - 14.41 million
Season 7 - 19.33 million
Season 8 - 19.46 million
Season Averages NCIS: LA
Season 1 - 16.08 million
Season 2 - 16.54 million
NCIS and its LA counterpart are coming back, while Unforgettable is on thin ice with nary a renewal in sight.
How do you fix what isn't broken? By breaking up two of CBS's biggest hits. NCIS is staying put, but it may be time to try out NCIS: Los Angeles on a new night. Sundays at 10pm may be ideal, considering CSI: Miami is also on the bubble for next season, even though I predict it to be renewed over the other CSI spinoff from New York.
Keeping these two programs intact on Tuesday hasn't benefitted Unforgettable. It also didn't benefit The Good Wife, to be honest. So why not spread the wealth around? It also might benefit CBS to move a proven series to 10pm, rather than keep trying out new programming. Blue Bloods is hitting it out of the park on Fridays, but maybe it would do even better on Tuesday nights?
That of course leaves Unforgettable out in the cold. I don't see CBS justifying its renewal next season. It hasn't taken off and never will. People who watch NCIS: LA leave the television on and Unforgettable pulls in 11 million viewers. They can do as well or better without it. That's the good thing about being CBS: you can cancel a series pulling in 11 million viewers and justify it.
9:00 Criminal Minds
Latest Ratings March 21
Survivor - 10.20 million / 2.7 demo
Criminal Minds - 11.90 million / 3.2 demo
CSI - 11.22 million / 2.5 demo
Season Averages Survivor
Season 1 - 28.30 million
Season 2 - 29.80 million
Season 4 - 20.77 million
Season 8 - 21.49 million
Season 10 - 18.30 million
Season 13 - 14.83 million
Season 16 - 13.81 million
Season 20 - 13.61 million
Season 21 - 12.59 million
Season Averages Criminal Minds
Season 1 - 12.63 million
Season 3 - 12.78 million
Season 4 - 14.94 million
Season 6 - 14.11 million
Season Averages CSI
Season 1 - 17.80 million
Season 3 - 26.12 million
Season 5 - 26.26 million
Season 7 - 20.34 million
Season 10 - 14.92 million
Season 11 - 13.52 million
Everything's coming back next season.
This is one of the few nights where I would suggest CBS to leave things the same. Survivor and CSI are damaged goods, nowhere near the heydays, as evidenced by the season averages from several years ago. Criminal Minds has never been as popular as CSI or NCIS, but it has held on to a sizable portion of its greatest audience over the course of seven seasons. But moving any of these shows could throw off the Wednesday night schedule and damage any or all programs involved. CBS has never had a ton of success at 8pm, as evidenced by their many attempts at a sitcom block in the timeslot. Now Survivor is finally pulling in respectable numbers.
If they did move anything here, I might suggest CSI to one of the current spinoff timeslots. How strange would it be if CSI ended its run where it started: Fridays at 9pm.
8:00 The Big Bang Theory
8:30 Rob! or Rules of Engagement
9:00 Person of Interest
10:00 The Mentalist
Latest Ratings February 23
The Big Bang Theory - 16.11 million / 5.2 demo
Rob! - 10.63 million / 3.0 demo
Person of Interest - 14.41 million / 3.1 demo
The Mentalist - 13.18 million / 2.5 demo
Rules of Engagement - 9.71 million / 2.7 demo (December 15)
Season Averages The Big Bang Theory
Season 1 - 8.31 million
Season 3 - 14.14 million
Season 4 - 13.14 million
Season Averages The Mentalist
Season 1 - 17.52 million
Season 2 - 15.37 million
Season 3 - 15.24 million
The Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest and The Mentalist are back, while Rules of Engagement and Rob! are in jeopardy.
How crazy is it that CBS is able to rebuild a failing night so quickly like they have with Thursday? And how crazy is it that they may take it apart all over again to make way for a two-hour sitcom block? Assuming this happens, The Mentalist may be on the move next year. Person of Interest is clearly the runaway favorite this year and should secure the 10pm slot over any other show.
The Big Bang Theory will likely stay put at 8, playing NBC's Friends to a sitcom schedule. As I said before, 2 Broke Girls will likely get the prime 9pm timeslot. It's risky because there's no guarantee it'll work. But when you have these many hits, you have to try something new.
Where does that leave Rob! and Rules of Engagement? CBS needs one of them. To launch two new sitcoms on Thursday or Monday could prove disastrous. Not that either show deserves another season (although to be fair, Rules of Engagement has always had decent numbers), but they should bank on three returning sitcoms next season on Thursday moreso than just two. Personally, I've always been a fan of Rob Schneider, and the pilot had potential.
If they nix the sitcom block, Person of Interest should stay put, launch a new drama at 10 and a new sitcom at 8:30.
8:00 Undercover Boss
9:00 CSI: NY
10:00 Blue Bloods
Latest Ratings March 9
Undercover Boss - 10.02 million / 2.2 demo
The Mentalist - 11.83 million / 2.0 demo
Blue Bloods - 11.27 million / 1.8 demo
CSI: NY - 10.34 million / 1.7 demo (February 10)
Season Averages CSI: NY
Season 1 - 13.59 million
Season 3 - 13.92 million
Season 5 - 13.50 million
Season 7 - 10.73 million
Blue Bloods is back, while Undercover Boss should be back. A Gifted Man is as good as gone, while CSI: NY is a toss-up. Does CBS still need the franchise to thrive or is it time to cut the strings?
Blue Bloods has to stay at 10pm. I don't care what I said back on Tuesday night, I was wrong. Hey, I can admit I'm wrong midway through, can't I? The Tom Selleck crime drama is doing what few other programs can do on Friday nights and that is pull in over 10 million viewers weekly. That's huge for Friday nights.
CSI: NY isn't doing much worse, but CBS is, of course, of the mindset that they can do as well with something else, like The Mentalist. They have all they can get out of CSI: NY. It has served its purpose. It's not going to enjoy a resurgence in popularity. It's time to cut ties with the extensive CSI franchise. NBC did it with Law & Order, and while we thought it would never happen, it has. CSI is no different.
As for Undercover Boss, it doesn't matter where it goes, it seems to attract an audience on any night. Although it does seem to be the best fit on Friday evening for the older demographic (like Blue Bloods), so I wouldn't be shocked to see it return to the same night next season, at least in midseason.
As for A Gifted Man, things aren't looking hot for the medical drama. You could say A Gifted Man has unwrapped its full potential. Hey, I said you could say that. You don't have to.
8:00 The Amazing Race
9:00 The Good Wife
10:00 CSI: Miami
Latest Ratings March 25
The Amazing Race - 9.53 million / 2.6 demo
The Good Wife - 9.77 million / 1.8 demo
CSI: Miami - 9.29 million / 2.1 demo
Season Averages The Amazing Race
Season 1 - 8.80 million
Season 4 - 8.32 million
Season 6 - 11.54 million
Season 8 - 10.80 million
Season 10 - 11.50 million
Season 12 - 11.84 million
Season 14 - 10.91 million
Season 16 - 10.40 million
Season 18 - 10.35 million
Season Averages The Good Wife
Season 1 - 13.12 million
Season 2 - 13.00 million
Season Averages CSI: Miami
Season 1 - 16.45 million
Season 3 - 19.00 million
Season 5 - 16.98 million
Season 7 - 14.26 million
Season 9 - 11.75 million
The Amazing Race and The Good Wife are coming back, while CSI: Miami might come to an end.
Sundays are a tough call for CBS. It's their most vulnerable night of the week. The Amazing Race deserves to stay put in the same 8pm timeslot on Sunday. It does well in numbers, especially the 18-49 demo. To move it now would be a mistake.
The Good Wife is coming back, but its ratings are nothing to feel proud of. Overall viewership is decent, pulling in just under 10 million last week. But things could be better for one of the most successful network dramas on the air, the lone network entry for Outstanding Drama Series at last year's Emmy Awards. To leave it on Sundays means they'll continue to pull less-than-stellar ratings on Sunday. To move it may cause irreparable damage to the show itself after already moving it from Tuesday night.
Again, CBS is in a weird spot with CSI: Miami. Can they justifiably cancel the two CSI spinoffs next season? Miami might stand a more solid chance at a reprieve over New York. But does CBS want to invest in an 11th season of the series? If I had to make the call, I'd renew CSI: Miami and cancel CSI: New York. It always helps to have a CSI on hand to pull in decent ratings if all else fails.
Overall, CBS is definitely in a tight spot on Sunday. Leave it all the same and you stay consistent. Sometimes consistency trumps innovation. But if you try something different, you might reap the rewards of solid ratings.
How do you fix what isn't really broken anywhere? Short of tackling Saturday nights and seeing if you can actually attract viewers to a desolate wasteland, CBS will be spending the next few weeks figuring out which shows that average over 9-10 million viewers they can do without, while NBC tries to figure out which shows that average less than 5 million viewers they should renew. One absolute I want to see next season is the Thursday night comedy block, while I'm anxious to see if they actually go through with cancelling one or both CSI spinoffs. I have a nagging feeling they'll chicken out and keep both.
That's all for this week's late edition. Next week it's on to ABC, which means I'm leaving the barren wastelands over at NBC until the week after. Also returning next week will be Tube News, as well as a new edition to my Shows-In-Development section.
Until then, stay tuned.