For fall, ‘CSI’ also stands for ‘comedy strategy implemented’ on CBS

[15 May 2008]

By Glenn Garvin

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

CBS, for the past decade a network built around “CSI” and its gory crime-drama clones, Wednesday unveiled a fall schedule intended to make its viewers laugh as well as gag.

The network added two sitcoms, renewed a couple of others that seemed near cancellation just a few days ago, and expanded comedy programming from one night to two.

“One of the things we wanted to get across is how important comedy is for us,” said CBS programming chief Nina Tassler. “Comedy has been significant for the network for many years. We had a fantastic comedy year.”

To make room for the comedies, the network canceled three notable dramas, including “Cane,” its groundbreaking nighttime soap about Cuban exiles in South Florida. Also biting the video dust were the vampire-detective cult favorite “Moonlight” and “Shark,” which won James Woods rave reviews for his portrayal of an ethics-schmethics district attorney.

Tassler’s announcements came at a press conference in New York where the broadcast networks are staging their upfronts, annual meetings where advertisers get to see clips from the new fall shows.

CBS renewed sitcoms “How I Met Your Mother” and “The New Adventures Of Old Christine,” which had been dangling in the wind for the past several weeks. The new comedies are “Project Gary,” with Jay Mohr (“Ghost Whisperer”) and Paula Marshall (“Out of Practice”) as dueling ex-spouses, and “Worst Week,” a remake of a British series with frequent CBS guest star Kyle Bornheimer as a top-notch magazine editor but domestic bungler.

Combined with two previously renewed sitcoms, “Two And A Half Men” and “Big Bang Theory,” they’ll allow CBS to open both Monday and Wednesday nights with slates of comedies. “We really wanted to focus on comedy, and we had the goods to do it this year,” said Tassler. “We’ve been looking to expand, to build out to another night. We have two of highest-testing new comedies we’ve had in years.”

Not that the network is turning away from its crime-show corpsefests. The latest of the CSI clones is “The Mentalist,” starring Simon Baker (“The Guardian”) as a phony psychic turned cop whose hot-dogging ego bugs his colleagues. CBS also is adding “Eleventh Hour,” which shares the name of a 1962 NBC series about psychiatrists and the content of Fox’s 1990s hit “The X-Files.” It stars Rufus Sewell (“The Illusionist”) as a government agent who investigates cases of weird and threatening science.

Another new CBS series, “The Ex List,” is a comedy-drama hybrid, with Elizabeth Reaser (“Grey’s Anatomy”) frantically re-dating former boyfriends after a psychic tells her one of them is her future husband - and she must marry him within the year or wind up alone.

Two other CBS shows in the ratings twilight zone, military drama “The Unit” and romantic-discord sitcom “Rules Of Engagement,” were renewed but won’t return until midseason. The network also formally canceled sitcom “Welcome To The Captain,” musical drama “Viva Laughlin!” and cutthroat-kiddie reality series “Kid Nation,” none of which have aired in months. The cancellation of another cult favorite, post-apocalyptic drama “Jericho,” was announced several weeks ago.

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