CBS thumps chest, teases 'noisy' new shows for 2015-16

CBS chief seeks to dispel image of 'old fogey network'

CBS unveiled its fall primetime schedule Wednesday morning at its annual press breakfast, dubbed "Lox With Les." 

As it does most years, the event included lots of gloating from CBS, which as Chief Executive Leslie Moonves noted in his opening remarks, will finish the 2014-15 season as broadcast's most-watched network for the 12th time in 13 years and has more returning freshman series than any other network.

"We are at the end of a terrific season for CBS," said Moonves, who once again sought to bust what he called the "myth" that the network is a destination for gray-haired viewers.

"The idea of the old fogey network really should be put away forever," he said, pointing to CBS' second-place finish among viewers under 50, where it trailed NBC by a margin of 122,000 ("That's less than the population of Paterson, N.J.")

Looking ahead to the fall, CBS is operating by the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," with a schedule that will remain largely intact from last season, when freshman shows "Scorpion," "Madam Secretary" and "NCIS: New Orleans" all landed in the top 20. The network is introducing just five new series this fall and will leave nearly all its returning shows in their current timeslots. 

The new shows, including three dramas and two comedies, will be "noisy," promised CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler.

The biggest change for CBS comes on Monday nights. For the early part of this fall,  "Life in Pieces," starring Dianne Wiest and James Brolin, will air at 8:30 in the coveted timeslot after long-running hit "The Big Bang Theory." 

But once "Thursday Night Football" wraps in November, both shows will move to the same timeslot on Thursday nights to make way for the hotly anticipated DC Comics adaptation "Supergirl."  

Though it's less comedically challenged than rival NBC, which has no new sitcoms scheduled for the fall, CBS has also had difficulty launching new sitcom hits in recent seasons. For years,  its Monday-night lineup was anchored by a two-hour sitcom block, but the network began to change up its formula last season by introducing freshman drama "Scorpion" at 9 p.m.

And when "Supergirl" debuts, it will be the first time since 1949 that a comedy has not appeared in CBS' Monday 8 p.m. timeslot, according to network scheduler Kelly Kahl. 

"Supergirl" will also air opposite Fox's Batman origin story "Gotham," but Kahl downplayed any concerns about competing for the same comic-loving audience. "Network scheduling isn't a zero-sum game anymore."

CBS will try out another new comedy, "Angel From Hell," on Thursdays at 9:30 beginning in November. The series stars Jane Lynch as a slightly debauched guardian angel assigned to an uptight charge played by Maggie Lawson.  

On the drama side, CBS is launching two new shows in the fall: "Limitless," a thriller inspired by the Bradley Cooper film about a man on neuro-enhancing drugs, will air on Tuesdays at 10, while "Code Black," an "ER"-esque drama set in the busiest emergency room in the nation, is slated for Wednesdays at 10.

As Kahl noted, "Thursday Night Football" has allowed CBS to schedule more original programming later in the year.

On hold for midseason are newbies "Rush Hour," a comedy adapted from the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker film, and  "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," a spinoff with Gary Sinise, as well as the returning series "2 Broke Girls," "The Odd Couple," "Undercover Boss," "Mike & Molly" and "Person of Interest."  

CBS also announced that it will say goodbye to "CSI," a show that helped CBS ascend to the top of the network ranks and establish a winning formula for its one-hour procedurals, with a two-hour special on Sept. 27. The send-off will include guest appearances by original leads Billy Petersen and Marg Helgenberger. 

In other "CSI" news, Tassler revealed that star Ted Danson will be moving to second-year spinoff, "CSI: Cyber."

Moonves took a few minutes to discuss the changes in CBS' late-night lineup. James Corden, the recently installed host of "Late Late Show," was succeeding "way beyond my wildest dreams," he said. With David Letterman due to step down from "Late Show" next week, Moonves said it was "a sad week," but expressed enthusiasm about incoming host Stephen Colbert, scheduled to appear at the network's upfront presentation Wednesday afternoon at Carnegie Hall.

Following a season in which the success of shows such as "Empire" and "How to Get Away With Murder" has made diversity an industry watchword, Tassler said the network, which has been criticized for a lack of shows featuring people of color in lead roles, is "definitely" open to the possibility of a series with a predominantly nonwhite cast.

"We're just waiting for that show to come in the door," she said.

Follow @MeredithBlake on Twitter.

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