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All eyes on CBS

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May 20th, 2009

THE MENTALIST

So much of the renew/cancel landscape for CBS has already been revealed that CBS' schedule announcement lack last year's sense of anticipation.  Last year Moonlight fans had to wait to the last minute to hear its fate, and Jericho fans waited to have any remaining hopes for renewal dashed.   There's no drama like that this year.

We know CBS has cancelled Eleventh Hour, Worst Week, Without a Trace and The Unit.    If you'd  been following things for a while, there weren't really any surprises.  We'd leaned towards Without a Trace over Cold Case, but are not surprised by the outcome, it has been pretty clear for more than a couple of months that it was one or the other.

Why Eleventh Hour?

Some have expressed surprise over Eleventh Hour's cancellation, and when you consider its numbers relative to shows on other networks that were canceled (and even in some cases, renewed) I suppose the surprise is understandable.  We weren't surprised though.  While we're not prone to heavily emphasizing lead-in retention, given Eleventh Hour's lead-in, its numbers weren't really impressive.  It was slightly below the network's average 18-49 ratings.   Plus, we'd heard noise for a while that CBS wasn't thrilled with the show.

Though networks don't typically cancel their average performing shows, it obtained those average ratings in a premium (though that premium had waned considerably by the end of the year) situation with a good lead-in/time slot.  Plus, CBS actually  has the luxury of being able to cancel average performing shows.

Patience with the new Wednesday comedy block

Though early in the year there were some questions over how long CBS would be patient with the performance of The New Adventures of Old Christine and Gary Unmarried from 8pm-9pm on Wednesday,  Bill was initially extremely skeptical that either (or Worst Week) would be back, and he slowly migrated to thinking one of the three could come back.  But CBS maintained publicly that the 8pm comedy block was something it wanted to stick with and by mid March or so, not even Bill was at the point of not being surprised if CBS brought back both Gary Unmarried and Old Christine.

I do understand why CBS is enamored with the idea of an additional comedy block, but it's not clear to me why it is so enamored in this case.  CBS/Paramount doesn't produce either of the Wednesday shows, so it seems way more about cost than syndication potential.  Or even ratings potential.  Though neither show has the potential of Two and a Half Men, CBS seems content for now if these shows pull roughly a 2.0 rating with adults 18-49.  That's well below CBS' average.  Can the ratings improve next year?   Will CBS remain patient if they don't? We'll see.

Medium and Flashpoint

NBC might have thrown a last minute wrench into CBS' scheduling plans by not renewing the CBS/Paramount produced Medium.  CBS publicly displayed its displeasure over NBC's decision, Medium was likely a victim of Jay Leno cost issues.  CBS is reportedly picking up Medium and its rumored it will be paired with Ghost Whisperer on Fridays.   What exactly that will mean for Flashpoint is one of only a few surprises that will be revealed by CBS' schedule announcement.

CSI and The Mentalist

CBS had freshman success with The Mentalist, but its formerly stalwart CSI showed rapid deterioration.   The ratings erosion for CSI likely has several components:

  • The broader trend for broadcast shows is erosion
  • CSI has been on a long, long time
  • William Petersen exiting and Laurence Fishburne arriving

CSI's finale last Thursday was only a 3.4.  Still good enough to be the 20th most-watched show, but there were eight airings on CBS that finished ahead of it, including the entire Monday night lineup of four thirty minute sitcoms and CSI: Miami.  While The Mentalist has been a big "hit" in terms of total viewers, and indeed, just last week The Mentalist had more total viewers than CSI, CSI's 3.4 rating with adults 18-49 was still ahead of The Mentalist's 3.3 (and CSI: NY's 3.2).

The big question seems to be what will CBS air after CSI on Thursdays at 10pm?  Many people are touting The Mentalist for that slot.  But a better question might be, is it time for CBS to air something else at 9pm on Thursdays and move CSI itself to 10pm?

We'll find out soon enough.

 
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