Wednesday, May 17, 2017

CBS Schedule Analysis for 2017-18 Season

Earlier today, CBS unveiled its schedule for the upcoming 2017-18 season and then promoted the lineup to advertisers. But right now, I'm taking a closer look at the network's scheduling plans and analyzing what is likely to work and what might fail.

CBS' schedule for the 2017-18 season can be found here.
Trailers for the new shows can be found here.

CBS really isn't fundamentally changing anything about its schedule for the 2017-18 season. All of the new shows it has planned for the fall are essentially airing in the same spots as the new shows did a year ago. When a network is as successful as CBS on so many nights, that makes sense. It doesn't want to break up what is clearly working for them. The issue continues to persist that its biggest hits are getting extreme old without anything new to replace them. That is a serious issue for the network. The Big Bang Theory is still the number one comedy on all of television. But its ratings were down last season. It's getting more expensive every year. Plus, it may only have two years left on the schedule. Without that show, the network's comedy brand may be in trouble because nothing else has really broken out as of late. It's just the same bunch of tired multi-camera sitcoms that feel extremely dated. Even the shows that do stand out critically (like Mom or Superior Donuts) often become utility players instead of anchors for a night. The same can probably be said of dramas like NCIS and Criminal Minds as well. They still do very well. They've experienced quite a bit of cast turnover in recent seasons. But without them anchoring their nights, things could really become problematic for the network. Again, this is an issue for the future. Right now, it's just important that the network keeps things as stable as possible while hoping that one of the new shows breaks out as a success.

In terms of new comedies, the network does have a couple of bold moves for its fall lineup. CBS is the home for multi-cam comedies. They thrive on this network while floundering on others. That's getting more and more true with each passing season. ABC and FOX are completely out of the game next season while NBC only has a few options as its single camera fare generate more buzz. So, it's interesting that CBS is only introducing one new multi-cam in the fall, 9JKL. In trailer form, it looks exactly how a family sitcom on CBS looks. That's not inherently bad. It feels like it'll fit right in with the shows airing on Monday nights. But it doesn't look all that new either. The big swings though come from the network's new attempts to have a single camera hit. Life in Pieces really hasn't been it - though it'll probably stick around on the schedule until it at least hits syndication numbers. It's surprising that it has taken the network this long to do a spinoff of The Big Bang Theory. Not all the great shows need spinoffs. But they feel like an easy way to build a connection to an audience nowadays. Slotting Young Sheldon behind The Big Bang Theory seems smart. But the new show feels like it's own distinctive thing as well which could be a hindrance if it doesn't quite work with the rhythms of the original show. Meanwhile, Me, Myself and I looks like a high concept experiment. It's a new twist on a modern family structure that has worked on other networks. But honestly, the differences between Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette seem very distracting in trailer form. They are suppose to play the same character 25 years apart. And yet, they look absolutely nothing alike. Plus, Larroquette is significantly taller. That could be a major problem.

With the dramas, there appeared to be a trend in this past development cycle. When it was first being speculated about which shows CBS would pick up, insiders didn't know if they would order both S.W.A.T. and SEAL Team because they have similar tones and a focus on military procedure. Not only did they both get series orders. They are both airing in the fall. In the trailers, it's easy to see why people would worry about them being too similar. It would appear that both pilots feature one of the main characters accidentally shooting someone and that being the basis of a major story. That subject matter is incredibly timely. And yet, I don't know if a CBS show has the ability to handle it well. I could be surprised. I like the teams behind both shows. Plus, they look much better executed than the other new drama on CBS' fall lineup. It's clear that CBS has some grand ambitions for them as well. SEAL Team bumps Criminal Minds out of the Wednesday night time slot it's aired in forever. That's a big deal. I was expecting Criminal Minds and S.W.A.T. to be paired together because of the Shemar Moore connection. It's a little curious why not considering the success the network had airing NCIS and Bull together. It may just be CBS thinks SEAL Team has the better odds of success. S.W.A.T. will have to wait until November to premiere. Plus, that Thursday night time slot has been very problematic for the network for a couple of seasons now. Though I really do want Shawn Ryan to have a breakout hit that runs for many seasons again.

And then, there is Wisdom of the Crowd. Why in the world is this a show? Yes, CBS has produced a show that fetishes technology and all of its awe-inspiring efficiency and horrifying practices almost every single year for the past decade. But none of them have worked. They are effective in scaring one's grandmother away from technology. But that's about it. Person of Interest was a very smart show that understood the intersection of technology and privacy. It used it to create a very captivating main story. This show seems to avoid any semblance of taking the subject matter seriously. So, it essentially plays as a cross between Pure Genius, CSI: Cyber and A.P.B. All of those shows failed. And for good reason too. The trend of a billionaire coming in to privatize police precincts or hospitals is just so lame and formulaic. It's an attempt to reinvent the genre. But no one has found a strong hook to it yet. I seriously doubt a show starring Jeremy Piven will be the answer. However, it could have a successful life because of its time slot. Yes, it's going to be delayed throughout the fall because of Sunday night football. But that time slot breathed new life into NCIS: Los Angeles this past year. It could make this the first show of its kind to succeed. If not, it feels like an easy and quick first cancellation of the year.

On top of all of this, there are the troubling continuing optics of the new shows on CBS' schedule. Last year the network got a lot of criticism for debuting five new shows in the fall that had white men in the lead roles and were created by white men. That's CBS's brand. It practically caters to middle-aged white man and their problems. But the questions of diversity are important. The last few years have proven that having diverse voices onscreen and behind it can be very lucrative. CBS really hasn't done anything to address these concerns. Of the new shows it has in the fall, only one of them is fronted by an actor of color (Shemar Moore in S.W.A.T.). The rest are the formulaic struggles of white men of a certain age. This issue probably wouldn't be so noteworthy if the people in charge of CBS had a better answer whenever it's brought up. This morning Les Moonves said that the best pilots get picked up to series. They don't factor diversity into the decision-making process. That's a huge issue because diversity happens long before that decision needs to be made. It happens with the types of projects it buys throughout the development season. It happens with the pilot orders and making sure that there are more women writers and directors. Plus, there needs to be some concession that CBS could do better. Instead, Moonves justifies all of it by saying that CBS the company is very successful with diverse voices once you factor in all of their corporate siblings (like The CW, Showtime, CBS All Access, etc.). But that's just denial that is very annoying. But again, CBS is a very successful network. It's still very dominant in total viewers. So, this could largely be a thing that aggravates journalists who look for these type of details. It ultimately just makes all of this feel too much of the same though.