CBS Sticks With Schedule, Adds Just Four New Shows

Touts Monday Comedy Block, Thursday Strength in 'Survivor,' 'CSI'

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NEW YORK ( -- Touting the stability of CBS's schedule, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves unveiled only four new programs this morning for its 2006-2007 season, but did so with his trademark bravado on full power.
'How I Met Your Mother' will anchor CBS's Monday night comedy block, which Les Moonves boasts is 'the only comedy block on television.'
'How I Met Your Mother' will anchor CBS's Monday night comedy block, which Les Moonves boasts is 'the only comedy block on television.'

"We're taking swings within an environment of strength," he said as he detailed the results night by night.

"The Class," a sitcom from "Friends" writer David Crane, will debut Monday nights, sandwiched between "How I Met Your Mother" and "Two and a Half Men."

'The only comedy block'
"We've got the strongest comedy block on television," Mr. Moonves said, before adding a little dig to one of the network's rivals, NBC: "Frankly, the only comedy block on television." He predicted CBS would be stronger on Monday nights this year now that "Monday Night Football" is moving off ABC and onto cable corporate sibling ESPN.

Tuesday's lineup includes "NCIS" followed by the "The Unit" before a new drama, "Smith," starring Ray Liotta and Virginia Madsen, debuts at 10. On Wednesday, CBS will debut "Jericho," about a small town in Kansas affected by a nuclear explosion, before "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."

CBS will keep "Survivor" at 9 and "CSI" at 10 on Thursday night, dropping in a new drama from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, "Shark," at 10. Demonstrating his fondness for big name talent, he boasted the "Shark" pilot was directed by Spike Lee.

"I'll agree with [ABC entertainment chief] Steve McPherson that two big hit shows can work in the same time period," he said. "If I were [writer] Aaron Sorkin, I wouldn't be very happy this morning. It's very hard to compete against two shows in the top five in the demographic."

Bottleneck on Thursday night
Mr. Sorkin is behind NBC's most buzzed-about new show, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which has been slated for the Thursday 9 p.m. hour, where it will go up against CBS's "CSI" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." Mr. Moonves called ABC's move of "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursday night as a "bold move on their part and probably a smart one." He said he wished CBS had NBC's "My Name Is Earl" -- but warned reporters to remember the sitcom is "not 'Friends' yet. It hasn't changed the face of television."

CBS's Friday and Saturday schedule remains unchanged, and on Sunday it slotted in "The Amazing Race" at 8, "Cold Case" at 9 and "48 Hours Mystery" at 10. "60 Minutes," which airs at 7 p.m. Sundays and will now feature stories from Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper and Laura Logan, "is not your mother's '60 Minutes,'" Mr. Moonves said. "We've reduced the age from 85 to 82."

Mr. Moonves was bullish on the returning schedule (See full schedule here.) He predicted big increases for Sunday night after doing away with the movie of the week franchise (a "dead art form") and noted that NBC has replaced its Sunday night schedule of procedural crime dramas with football.

Mr. Moonves' legendary repartee was present through the morning presentation. At one point he couldn't definitively recall where "Jericho" was set, but knew it was some small town in the "middle of the country."

"Is it Kansas?" he called out for his entertainment chief, Nina Tassler, to clarify. "It's one of those states. Sorry, I love Kansas!"

An eye on syndication
He also said that while "Jericho" and "Smith" had serialized natures, CBS would try to keep some story lines contained within the episodes. Serialized dramas, while appearing to be popular this upfront, judging from the schedules that have been introduced, don't tend to repeat well or fetch as large a sum in syndication as self-contained dramas. He boasted that "CSI" is far more profitable than "Desperate Housewives," and warned reporters to remember CBS has consistent ratings from week to week. "We are not the manic depressive network," he said.

On reports that Ms. Couric would not be allowed by current employer NBC to show up at CBS's upfront, Mr. Moonves suggested "that may be changing -- we're working on it." When asked what Mr. Moonves offered NBC to make it happen, he cracked: "I offered them Julie Chen to show up at their upfront. They didn't go for that."
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