CBS Continues on its Quest to Kill Comedy

(NOTE: We’re sticking with upfronts this week. So if you wanna read about Battleship director Peter Berg going nuts on an Israeli journalist or all the pageantry of Cannes, looks like you’ll have to do that elsewhere. Up this afternoon is CBS …)

You know in those war movies where some powerful guy is plotting out war against another country, and he’s so powerful and sinister that he can make the mean face, scream something incomprehensible like, “Schizneil!” and crush the buildings of the other country on the map he’s plotting things out on?

stepping up to the big leagues

That powerful warmonger? That’s Lesley Moonves. He’s the head of CBS at a time when CBS is the most powerful country TV network there is. When other networks are ordering six, seven or a dozen new shows to put on the air this year because everything else failed, CBS will debut all of three in the fall. And they don’t even need to throw out that many, they just are because their shows that 10 million people watched isn’t a big enough audience. Meanwhile, other TV shows that will remain unnamed — never mind, I’m talking about PopRox faves Community and Fringe — get renewed without even averaging 4 million viewers this year. On CBS, those shows would be toast on a stick. On NBC and Fox, they get another year.

And that country he’s crushing with his maniacal laugh? That’s NBC, the network that hasn’t had much to hang its hat on lately. Actually, it even sold the hat rack at hock a couple weeks ago, so now it literally has nothing to hang its hat on. But if it had one thing, it had its critically acclaimed but low-rated Thursday night comedy block. It’s been a tradition at NBC since the early 80s of Cosby Show-Family Ties-Cheers fame. CBS moved what could have been an outmatched pawn — Big Bang Theory — into NBC’s enemy comedy territory this season. That one pawn took down any semblance of remaining ratings for NBC on Thursday. CBS saw the blood in the water when NBC trotted out the near-identical Thursday lineup for 2012-13, and decided to send in the reinforcements to completely kill NBC’s comedy block.

hmmm, is there even anything else on thursdays? maybe if i google it ...

Now, we have what CBS is calling its “super comedy block” with Two and a Half Men moving to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays. That pretty much will destroy the ratings of 30 Rock at 8 and Up All Night at 8:30, the latter of which could be canceled by Thanksgiving when 30 Rock wraps up its run. Hopefully NBC realizes this and puts some kind of counter-programming on there from now on, or else it’s going to be sacrificing its new investments shows.

CBS could have just tried another freshman comedy at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, like the failed How to Be a Gentleman of this year, but this is almost a do-over. They saw they couldn’t debut a comedy on Thursdays, so it moved 2.5 Men to Thursdays and debuted the new comedy Partners on the comedy-protected 8:30 p.m. Monday slot. The same slot, incidentally, that launched the only legitimate sitcom hit of 2011-12, 2 Broke Girls.

For once, let’s give CBS the credit it whole-heartedly deserves. CBS may be boring, formulaic and downright sleep-inducing in its shows and its scheduling, but at least it’s following formulas that have proven to work, almost without fail. When it makes a scheduling mistake — like How to Be a Gentleman — it corrects it the next year instead of just throwing more money into a bad investment.

And that’s why more people watch its shows than any other network.

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