CBS this morning revealed it will cut its Monday comedy block in half next season and move NCIS to Monday, CSI to Sunday, and The Amazing Race to Friday. And yet, the biggest news of the network’s upfront day is the new comedy it did not pick up — How I Met Your Dad. And then there’s Leslie Moonves’ wife’s early-morning tweet of “my hubby” chumming around with Joel “Got A Talk Show?” McHale. CBS’ upfront presentation, at Carnegie Hall, starts at 4 PM ET…
5:30 PM ET: CBS presentation ends without even a whiff of an announcement about Craig Ferguson’s replacement.
5:26 PM ET: CBS programming chief Nina Tassler walks advertisers through the schedule. Highlights: Chuck Lorre has “big surprises” in store for the final season of Thursday’s Two And A Half Men — and almost no repeats for Thursday night all season, thanks to football. Benchwarmers are Mike and Molly, Battle Creek, new Matthew Perry starrer The Odd Couple, The Mentalist, and Undercover Boss.
5:10 PM ET: Battle Creek is Vince Gilligan’s next drama after his AMC hit Breaking Bad, CBS programing Nina Tassler makes a point of telling advertisers in the hall, pretty early into the presentation considering it’s not on the fall schedule. Then, during the clip of the pilot episode, they break away to say it’s from Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad.
Scorpion, on the other hand, is on the fall schedule — Mondays at 9 PM, ending CBS’ long-ish run with four comedies on the night. It’s about an eccentric genius and his team of brilliant misfits who become Homeland Security’s new think tank. Yes, Katharine McPhee is in this one, but they did not cast her as a genius, which would be about as silly as trying to pass off McPhee as, I don’t know — Marilyn Monroe? She plays a waitress who has a genius son. CBS programming chief Nina Tassler explains this show is perfect companion to the networks geniuses comedy The Big Bang Theory on Monday nights.
5:06 PM ET: Cast of new NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: LA and NCIS: The Mothership get a big round of applause in the hall.
5:04 PM ET: Really long clip of new Madam Secretary — yes, another Washington TV drama. Seriously long clip — like we just watched virtually an entire pilot episode. Tia Leoni stars, and Carnegie Hall audience applauds enthusiastically when she stands, but they erupt when exec producer Morgan Freeman stands.
5: 00 PM ET: CBS programming chief Nina Tassler says new drama Stalker is “easily the scariest show we’ve ever done. This is a show that is going to keep audiences up — possibly all night.” In the clip shown to advertisers, a young woman is accosted by her stalker; she jumps into her car, but stalker has grabbed her keys. Stalker pours gasoline over the car, ignites the car, sets the car on fire. The car blows up. Cue up another round of press reports scolding CBS for trolling for ratings by dramatizing abuse of women.
4:45 PM ET: Nina Tassler finally trots out first new series: The McCarthys, about a loud, sports-crazed Boston family whose matriarch is Laurie Metcalf. Tyler Ritter stars as the athletically challenged son chosen by his father to be his assistant high school basketball coach. Polite applause.
4:23 PM ET: David Letterman makes his last appearance at a CBS upfront presentation — not that he made many during his long run at the network. Les Moonves says it has been one of the great privileges of his career to work with Dave. Dave says that backstage Cardinal Dolan told him of his decision to leave CBS late-night, “Be careful. Life is like an elevator ride with Beyonce’s sister.” He tells a story about the 48-hour phone fight he and Les engaged in during their Not Getting Along phase back when, “for some reason I was under the impression that everything that was wrong was Les’ fault.” Now he calls Les the very picture of patience “toward me, my show and, in greater measure, toward my family.” This lovefest continues for some time until Dave breaks out into a joke about a moth and a podiatrist. You had to be there.
4:25 PM ET: CBS celebrates landing Thursday Night Football. Jim Nantz: “We can’t wait to bring the NFL to CBS on Thursday nights.”
4:18 PM ET: CBS CEO Leslie Moonves delivers expanded version of the speech he unveiled this morning at his annual Lox With Les breakfast with The Reporters Who Cover Television: “CBS once again the most-watched night. … This is the best era television has ever seen. There are more great shows out there than ever before. … CBS America’s most-watched network for the 11th time in the past 12 years. ”
4:05 PM ET: CBS once again shows the other networks how you kick off an upfront presentation, when Alan Cumming strips from his The Good Wife suit to his Cabaret costume while singing an adaptation of “Willkommen“ with lyrics about the upfronts — yes, it can be done — and massaging his nipples.
“Other networks make you sad. We have no losers here. Here, TV is beautiful. The shows are beautiful. Even our CEO is beautiful!” he croons.
He brings down the house.