CBS Unveils 2011-12 Schedule
After branding last year’s schedule overhaul as “aggressive stability” last May, CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl described the changes this year as “dynamic stability.” They include launching a new series in the Thursday 9 PM slot, the J.J. Abrams/Jonah Nolan drama Person of Interest; moving The Good Wife to Sunday and Rules of Engagement to Saturday; and trying again to launch a new show, medical drama A Gifted Man, in the Friday 8 PM slot. (I’m sure the producers of Chaos are calling their colleagues on the A Gifted Man this morning saying, “Good luck with that!”)

Addressing the network’s biggest move, putting the Jim Caviezel/Michael Emerson-starring Person of Interest in the Thursday 9 PM slot, Kahl said, “To do that you have to have the big guns, and we do. Now we have stability at 8 and 10 PM and a great upside in the middle.” CSI will move to the Wednesday 10 PM slot, longtime home of spinoff CSI: NY until it was shifted to Friday in the shakeup last May. “We hope to get some stability at 10 PM,” Kahl said. I felt that removing the darker CSI: NY from the slot following the gruesome Criminal Minds in favor of the lightweight The Defenders was a mistake, so this in a way to correct that. I’m also happy to see The Good Wife taken away from the Tuesday 10 PM slot where its audience was cannibalized by ABC’s Body of Proof and especially Parenthood. The problem is that The Good Wife is moving to the Sunday 9 PM slot for a “battle of the wives”: The Good Wife vs. Desperate Housewives. CBS scheduled a pure procedural, new series Unforgettable, to follow NCIS and NCIS: LA (“We through we could do better,” CBS brass say). And, with The Good Wife joining the Sunday lineup of 60 Minutes and The Amazing Race, CBS now calls Sunday “our prestige night.” (There probably should be an asterisk next to that as CSI: Miami still airs on the night at 10 PM.)

For the first time in six years, since CBS aired drama The District on Saturday, a network will air high-end original scripted series on Saturdays. It is CBS again with veteran comedy Rules of Engagement. “We liked the idea of bringing something new to Saturday,” Kahl said. Not expected to like the idea that much — Rules producer Sony Pictures TV. Still, the full-season order will bring the show’s run to very syndicatable 96 episodes, so news is not that bad. CBS also wants to use Rules as a lead-in for a half-hour comedy repeat slot, which will be filled by reruns of CBS’ freshmen Two Broke Girls and How To Be a Gentleman in the fall for extra exposure. The two newbies are launching behind How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, respectively. “Comedy was a priority,” CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said, adding the emphasis was on female-skewing programming.

Kahl and Tassler touted what they called CBS’ “best testing development season ever.” Out of seven drama pilots CBS produced, five went to series — four on CBS and one on CW, Ringer. Person of Interest was CBS’ highest-testing drama pilot ever but it was upstaged by comedy Two Broke Girls, which scored CBS’ highest-testing scores ever for any pilot comedy or drama.  With so much good product, “we needed another night, we needed Schnursday,” Tassler quipped. One of the victims of the limited shelf space was the Sarah Michelle Gellar starrer Ringer. “It could have been on our schedule… (but) we had no more time periods. It tested well, it screened well, people really liked it… and Sarah Michelle Gellar is a force to be reckoned with.”

Kahl said that he didn’t work on an alternative schedule in case Two and a Half Men didn’t return.  “We worked under the assumption that it would get done,” he said. Per CBS tradition, company’s CEO  opened the breakfast with a line about the replacement on Two and a Half Men. “We had a little bit a drama in our lives,” he said. “I’ve been chased from every restaurant in Los Angeles for the past two months avoiding any questions,” Moonves says. “But I think we got out just fine.” More on Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher at the CBS upfront presentation later today…