CBS is No.1 these days mainly because the vast majority of its programming follows the path of least resistance: procedural dramas rule the roost at the Tiffany, and the sitcoms are all traditional, four-camera set-ups. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: “How I Met Your Mother” is consistently well written and played by an ensemble with great chemistry, and yet it still has a laugh track and rolls out like a stage play caught on film.
So there’s very little boat-rocking in Les Moonves’ calm waters. One new drama-comedy that looks really cool in a high-concept, “Shoulda Been on HBO or FX” kind of way is “Viva Laughlin,” which is based on the Beeb’s “Viva Blackpool.” Executive produced and co-starring (on a limited basis, I’m certain) Hugh Jackman, the pilot was directed by Gabriele Muccino (“The Pursuit of Happyness”), so this could look and feel quite a bit different from most CBS offerings.
Only one new sitcom is in the offering: Chuck Lorre’s geek-com “The Big Bang Theory,” and while I’m no fan of “Two and a Half Men,” Lorre (based on interviews and his online rants) seems like one of the more fearless and scabrous people working sitcoms today, so there might be something there.
So, here’s the CBS upfront schedule, along with the typical glowing capsules of new shows.
All times are Eastern, of course.
8:00-8:30 PM “How I Met Your Mother”
8:30-9:00 PM “The Big Bang Theory”
9:00-9:30 PM “Two and a Half Men”
9:30-10:00 PM “Rules of Engagement”
10:00-11:00 PM “CSI Miami”
8:00-9:00 PM “NCIS”
9:00-10:00 PM “The Unit”
10:00-11:00 PM “Cane”
8:00-9:00 PM “Kid Nation”
9:00-10:00 PM “Criminal Minds”
10:00-11:00 PM “CSI: NY”
8:00-9:00 PM “Survivor”
9:00-10:00 PM “CSI”
10:00-11:00 PM “Without a Trace”
8:00-9:00 PM “Ghost Whisperer”
9:00-10:00 PM “Moonlight”
10:00-11:00 PM “Numb3rs”
8:00-10:00 PM David Caruso takes his sunglasses off on reruns
10:00-11:00 PM “48 Hours: Mystery”
7:00-8:00 PM “60 Minutes”
8:00-9:00 PM “Viva Laughlin”
9:00-10:00 PM “Cold Case”
10:00-11:00 PM “Shark”
THE BIG BANG THEORY is a comedy from the Emmy Award nominated Co-Creator and Executive Producer of “Two and a Half Men” Chuck Lorre, about brainy best friends Leonard (Johnny Galecki, “Roseanne”) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons “Judging Amy”), who can tell you anything you want to know about quantum physics, but when it comes to dealing with everyday life here on earth they’re lost in the cosmos. Neither fully understands that scientific principles don’t always apply in matters of the heart – until they meet their sexy new neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco, “8 Simple Rules…”), a friendly screenwriter/waitress from the midwest who also happens to be newly single. She quickly makes an impression on the other members of Leonard and Sheldon’s geek squad – Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”), who portrays himself as the Casanova of Cal Tech, and fellow whiz kid Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar, “NCIS”), who is rendered speechless around anyone unprepared to converse about the Theory of Relativity or other scientific jargon. The chemistry between this gaggle of geniuses and a delightful damsel is about to undergo a stimulating series of inter-personal experiments. Multiple Emmy Award winner James Burrows (“Will & Grace”) directed the pilot. Lorre and Bill Prady (“Gilmore Girls,” “Dharma & Greg”) are executive producers for Warner Bros. Television.
VIVA LAUGHLIN — Executive produced by Tony and Emmy Award winner Hugh Jackman (“The Boy from Oz,” “X-Men”), VIVA LAUGHLIN is a mystery drama with music about eternal optimist and freewheeling businessman Ripley Holden, whose sole ambition is to run a casino in Laughlin, Nev. Occasionally using upbeat contemporary songs to accentuate the drama and humor and advance the story, the series is based on the hit BBC show “Viva Blackpool.” Ripley (Lloyd Owen, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”) is the ultimate gambler with an infectious personality who is on the brink of making a killing… just as soon as he opens his casino that’s nowhere near completion. When his financing suddenly falls through, the fearless and tenacious Ripley approaches his enemy – dashing, sarcastic, wealthy casino owner Nicky Fontana (Hugh Jackman) for help. Though the odds are stacked against him, Ripley doesn’t miss a beat, even when he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after the body of his ex-business partner is found at his club. At home, Ripley uses his dry wit to adjust to the demands of his family: his gorgeous wife, Natalie (Madchen Amick, “ER”), wants more attention; his teenage daughter, Cheyenne (Ellen Woglom, “The O.C.”), wants his approval; and his son, Jack (Carter Jenkins, “Surface”), wants to help him at work. All of this adversity would defeat a lesser man, but for the outgoing and passionate Ripley there’s no such thing as bad news, only deals to be struck and wagers to be won in the intoxicating neon glow of Laughlin, where the cards are on the table, romance is in the air and lively music is on the stage. Eric Winter (“Wildfire”) and D.B. Woodside (“24″) also star. Directed by Gabriele Muccino (“The Pursuit of Happyness”). Golden Globe Award nominee Hugh Jackman, John Palermo (“X-Men: The Last Stand”), Bob Lowry (“Huff”), Paul Telegdy and Peter Bowker (“Viva Blackpool”) are executive producers for BBC Worldwide Productions, Seed Productions, CBS Paramount Network Television in association with Sony Pictures Television.
CANE stars Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Jimmy Smits (“The West Wing”) in an epic drama about the external rivalries and internal power struggles of a large Cuban-American family running an immensely successful rum and sugar business in South Florida. When the family patriarch, Pancho (Hector Elizondo, “Chicago Hope”), is offered a lucrative but questionable deal by his bitter adversary, the Samuels, to purchase thousands of acres of sugar fields, he’s faced with a tough choice: Should he cash out of the sugar business and focus solely on rum, which would please his impulsive natural son, Frank (Nestor Carbonell, “Lost”), or protect the family legacy that he built from the ground up by not selling, and side with his adopted son, Alex (Smits), who mistrusts the Samuels and still sees value in sugar. Alex and Frank’s approach to business is as different as their approach to life. While Frank might lose focus chasing women, Alex is deeply in love with his beautiful wife, Isabel (Paola Turbay, “Bailando por un Sueño”), who is also Pancho’s daughter. Married when she was just 17 years old, Isabel balances Alex by choosing not to involve herself in the business, focusing instead on their three children, who are determined to forge their own paths outside the family. For the Duques, will family allegiance come first or will their secrets and acrimonious conflicts over love, lust and control of the family fortune be their downfall? Eddie Matos (“General Hospital”), Rita Moreno (“West Side Story”), Michael Trevino (“The Riches”), Lina Esco (“CSI: NY”), Sam Carman (“Bones”), Alona Tal (“Veronica Mars”) and Polly Walker (“Rome”) also star. Cynthia Cidre (“The Mambo Kings”), Jonathan Prince (“American Dreams”), Jimmy Iovine (“8 Mile”) and Polly Anthony (“Lifehouse: Live in Portland!”) are the executive producers for ABC Studios in association with CBS Paramount Network Television.
MOONLIGHT, from prolific movie producer Joel Silver (“The Matrix,” Trilogy), is about Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin, upcoming “White Out”), a captivating “undead” private investigator who uses his acute vampire senses to help the living… instead of feeding on them. In an agonizing twist of fate, Mick was “bitten” 60 years ago by his new bride, the seductive and beguiling Coraline (Amber Valletta, “Hitch”). Immortal and eternally as young, handsome and charismatic as he was then, Mick is sickened by Coraline and other vampires who view humans only as a source of nourishment. With only a handful of undead confidantes for company, including deceitful ally Josef (Rade Serbedzija, “24″), Mick fills his infinite days protecting the living, and trying not to think about how his life would have been if he hadn’t followed his heart. However, after six decades of resisting, he wonders if it’s time to pursue the love of a mortal. He has his eyes on Beth Turner, a beautiful, ambitious reporter who has been covering the ongoing plague of unusual murders. But would Beth even consider giving up a normal life to be with him, and can Mick risk the pain of seeing himself as a monster in her eyes? As Mick lives between two realities, fighting his adversaries among the undead and falling in love with Beth, he knows he needs to figure out a reason to keep “living.” MOONLIGHT is directed by executive producer Rod Holcomb (“ER”). Joel Silver, Ron Koslow (“Birds of Prey”), Trevor Munson and Gerard Bocaccio are also executive producers for Warner Bros. Television.
Reality (Hey, at least CBS doesn’t try to label it “alternative”)
KID NATION is a reality-based series in which 40 kids will have 40 days to build a new world – in a ghost town that died in the 19th Century. These kids, ages 8-15, will spend more than a month without their parents or modern comforts in Bonanza City, N.M., attempting to do what their forefathers could not – build a town that works. They will cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses, haul their own water and even run their own businesses – including the old town saloon (root beer only). They’ll also create a real government – four kid leaders who will guide the group through their adventure, pass laws and set bedtimes. Through it all, they’ll cope with regular childhood emotions and situations: homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule they’ve ever known. At the end of each episode, all 40 kids will gather at an old fashioned Town Hall meeting where they will debate the issues facing Bonanza City. They’ll show wisdom beyond their years and the unflinching candor that only kids can exhibit. There are no eliminations on KID NATION – you only go home if you want to. And in every Town Hall meeting, kids may raise their hands and leave. Will they stick it out? In the end, will these kids prove to adults everywhere (and their own parents!) that they have the vision to build a better world than the pioneers who came before them? And just as importantly, will they come together as a cohesive unit, or will they abandon all responsibility and succumb to the childhood temptations that lead to round-the-clock chaos? KID NATION is produced by Emmy Award winner Tom Forman (“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”) for Tom Forman Prods. and Good TV, Inc.
POWER OF 10, hosted by award-winning comedian Drew Carey (“The Drew Carey Show”), is a high-stakes game that challenges contestants to guess the behaviors, opinions and lifestyle choices of the American public for the chance to win $10 million. POWER OF 10 polls thousands of people across the U.S. asking them, well, just about everything – from “What percentage of married Americans said they were virgins the day they got married?” to “What percentage of American’s believe they are smarter than the president?” Each week, contestants must decide if they have their finger on the pulse of the American majority and can accurately predict the results of these nationwide surveys. With the first question worth $1,000 and only five questions to answer, each one increasing 10 times in value, contestants participate in a potentially lucrative game where they just might walk away with $10 million. The higher they are on the money ladder, the closer they must be to the actual statistic. The studio audience and a friend can help them, but the final answer is theirs. Michael Davies (“Who Wants to be a Millionaire”) is executive producer for Embassy Row in association with Sony Pictures Television.
SWINGTOWN, from the director of “Big Love” and “Rome,” peeks into the shag-carpeted suburban homes of the 1970s to find couples reveling in the sexual and social revolution that introduced open marriages, women’s liberation and challenged many conventional wisdoms. During this heady era of provocative change, Susan (Molly Parker, “Deadwood”) and Bruce Miller (Jack Davenport, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”) move their family to an affluent Chicago suburb in search of a different sense of community, and they look forward to barbecues and get-togethers with their new neighbors, as well as a change of pace for their teenage daughter and pre-teen son. Enter Tom (Grant Show, “Melrose Place”) and Trina (Lana Parrilla, “24″) Decker, a striking, outgoing couple on the hunt who redefine the term “neighborhood watch.” After a mind-blowing evening with them, Susan and Bruce realize that couples in this town share much more than recipes, local gossip and a view of Lake Michigan, and are worlds apart from their former conservative neighbors, Janet (Miriam Shor, “Big Day”) and Roger (Josh Hopkins, “Brothers & Sisters”) Thompson. Susan’s loyal friend Janet is appalled by what she witnesses in this new neighborhood, while Roger, though dutiful to his wife, may be more intrigued than she knows. In a changing social climate – defined by its music, fashion and style – everyone in SWINGTOWN is confronted with personal choices, experimentation and shifting attitudes. Shanna Collins (“Wildfire”), Aaron Howles and Brittany Robertson (“Freddie”) also star. Mike Kelley (“The O.C.”) and director Alan Poul (“Six Feet Under”) are executive producers for CBS Paramount Network Television.