Every year at this time, CBS‘ scheduling guru Kelly Kahl experiments with moves that, if successful, lead to permanent changes on the network’s fall schedule the following season. When years ago The Big Bang Theory, then a Monday 8:30 PM show, did great when tested behind Two And A Half Men, it was moved there the following year, starting the comedy’s rapid ascent to blockbuster hit status. In January 2010, CBS tried comedy repeats, including Big Bang, in the Thursday 8-9 PM hour — then still occupied by Survivor. While they didn’t pop, the network pushed through with a move of Big Bang to Thursday 8 PM anyway, and it was successful. Most recently last season, CBS tried out Friday’s breakout Blue Bloods in the Wednesday 10 PM slot and the Thursday 10 PM player The Mentalist in the 9 PM Thursday slot. Neither did particularly well in their new berths, and CBS ultimately kept them in their old slots for this season’s schedule.
Now CBS is at it again during the slow time when many shows are in repeats. A new episode of The Mentalist airs tonight at 9 PM. As an older-skewing series (mature women love Simon Baker!), the procedural should be able to fit into CBS’ Friday lineup, paired with Blue Bloods. The experiment doesn’t bode well for the current occupant of the Friday 9 PM slot, CSI: NY, which already had its order cut this season and has been benched for a period of time. Will it be the first of the CSI series to go off the air?
The other CBS scheduling tryout is one that I have been advocating since 2 Broke Girls launched big in the fall and went on to top Two And A Half Men in the demo a couple of times — a two-hour comedy block on Thursday, something the network will pilot April 12. With NBC’s comedy lineup a shadow of its former self from the glory Must See TV days, CBS can expand its comedy invasion on the night, and it has the weapons to do it. To use the analogy with NBC’s last highly-rated Thursday comedy block, CBS has its Friends with Big Bang, about a group of young single friends (see my 2010 story Is ‘Big Bang Theory’ The Next ‘Friends’?), and its Will & Grace with 2 Broke Girls, about a mismatched pair of friends. With those two as tentpoles at 8 PM and 9 PM, CBS can absolutely open a two-hour comedy block on Thursday. That is if Two And A Half Men returns next year as most expect, contingent on star Ashton Kutcher signing a new deal. Another season of Men and How I Met Your Mother, which is stronger than ever in Season 7 (the show has another season on its current two-year pickup), would shore up CBS’ signature Monday comedy lineup and allow the network to move reinforcements to Thursday. On April 12, a repeat of Big Bang at 8 PM will be followed by a new Rules Of Engagement and repeats of Big Bang at 9 PM and 2 Broke Girls. That night, CBS also will try out Person Of Interest at 10 PM. It will be a repeat, so the result won’t be 100% conclusive but would inform CBS’ decision whether to shift the freshman drama. And as an added bonus to the scheduling switches, the repeats in the new time slots, like the POI rerun at 10 PM, are labeled as specials and won’t count, helping the shows’ season averages.