In his annual handicapping of CBS’ freshman series and pilot slate at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves this morning indicated that “at least five, maybe six shows from this season” will be returning next season.

That is encouraging news for the crop of first-year CBS series. With midseason legal drama Doubt yanked after 2 episodes; midseason cop drama Training Day — already unlikely to return — ending following the untimely death of Bill Paxton; and fall medical drama Pure Genius, which didn’t get a back order, considered pretty much dead, that leaves six freshmen shows in serious contention. (CBS just cast Pure Genius series regular Brenda Song in a comedy pilot for next season.)


Drama Bull, the most watched new series of the season; comedy Kevin Can Wait, the most watched highest-rated new comedy series of the season; and drama MacGyver, which has improved CBS’ ratings performance on Friday and makes money for CBS TV Studios internationally, are considered shoe-ins. Three freshman comedies, Man With a Plan, Superior Donuts and The Great Indoors, will likely duke it out for the remaining two slots or all make it in if CBS decides to return six first-year shows. Of the three, The Great Indoors is considered the more vulnerable at the moment but all are in real contention and all owned by CBS, as are Bull and MacGyver; Kevin Can Wait is co-produced by Sony TV and CBS TV Studios. (CBS’ other new scripted series this season, drama Ransom, is an international acquisition, which falls under a different business model.)

Of CBS’ 17 drama and comedy pilots, Moonves said he expects two comedies and two dramas to be picked up to series, though he warned that the plans “all could change depending on how good they come in.”

Indeed, last year at the same event Moonves said he expected to pick up “no more than four or five” pilots to series. The network ended up picking up 8 pilots to series in May, followed by a ninth, Superior Donuts, in the off-season after it was recast and reshot.

Meanwhile, last year he projected that five freshman series would be renewed. In light of the larger volume of new series orders, only three first-year shows made it to Year 2, Life In Pieces, Code Black and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. So things will likely change between now and May.

The two 2017 comedy pilots Moonves expects to get series orders in May will likely not include The Big Bang Theory prequel, Young Sheldon, which he referred to as a series that will likely air behind Big Bang. That, of course, is contingent on securing the pending two-season Big Bang renewal, which Moonves said was “on the two yard line” as negotiations for that and Young Sheldon are wrapping up.