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Fall Slate Kicks Off With 'Martha Behind Bars'

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NEW YORK ( -- In a new offensive against rival ABC's wildly successful Sunday night show Desperate Housewives, CBS will launch a crop of action/adventure movies when the TV season resumes in September.
CBS is hoping that high action and horror can pull viewers away from ABC's smash hit 'Desperate Housewives.'

The new strategy was announced by Nina Tassler, CBS's president for entertainment, at the Television Critics’ Association’s biannual gathering at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

Action adventure and suspense
“Outside of opening the season with Martha Stewart, the initial slate will be heavy with action adventure and suspense thrillers," she said. "We see these movies as a good alternative to the Desperate Housewives audience on ABC and very compatible for promotion in our Sunday NFL broadcasts” earlier in the day.

Ms. Tassler was referring to Martha Behind Bars, a movie special to air Sept. 25. Cybill Shepherd will reprise her role as the domestic diva with the action centered on the Alderson prison where Ms. Stewart was incarcerated until March this year. Ms. Shepherd previously starred in the 2003 made-for-TV movie, Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart that aired on NBC, where, incidentally, the real Martha Stewart will be seen as she takes over for Donald Trump in The Apprentice.

The action movies include Mayday, Time Bomb, Vampire Bats and Category 7: The End of the World. The network is also to air a drama based on the life of Pope John Paul II.

'Rock Star: INXS' falls short
Commenting on the Mark Burnett reality show Rock Star: INXS, which has seen modest ratings since its debut, Ms. Tassler said the network would stand by the show. “It's original programming in the summer, and although it’s not a broad-based ratings success, it’s done OK in getting some younger viewers. So I think we’re going to give it some time.” The show involves the search for a new lead singer for '80s band INXS.

When asked by one TV critic whether CBS was in danger of saturating the audience with crime dramas, she responded that the audience would tell the network when enough was enough and “our viewers haven’t told us that.”

Retooling 'CSI: New York'
The network is also planning to retool CSI: New York for the upcoming season. “This year episodes will look more vibrant, tell more ripped-from-the-headline stories and have more elements of humor. ... We’re fortunate in that [executive producers] Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman are incredibly involved. They recognized the challenges before us and we’ve revamped a lot of the show based on what we learned last season.”

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