Clearly reveling in its stability, CBS will introduce just four new programs in the fall, and didn't even bother talking about midseason during its upfront presentation. And while the newcomers don't all look great, it's not hard to envision scenarios with all of them working.
As CBS Entertainment Prez Nina Tassler noted, that's because the network's existing hits allow it to selectively launch new programs behind established series, "a luxury the other guys simply don't have." Moreover, CBS possesses the kind of scheduling flow (one of the byproducts of its older audience skew) to gamble on making "2 Broke Girls" the centerpiece of its Monday lineup, moving "Two and a Half Men" to shore up the weak link in its Thursday block, where "The Big Bang Theory" has been a comedy island paired with "Shit My Network Orders." (RIP, "Rob.")
As reconstructed, CBS might lose a little steam on Monday but should be significantly stronger on Thursdays -- and make NBC, which once owned the night where reaching young adults is especially valuable because of movie ads, increasingly irrelevant. Moreover, all three new dramas exhibited considerable promise, with "Vegas" -- a period piece starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis -- potentially offering CBS the rare critical acclaim it's enjoyed with "The Good Wife," while tapping into the modern-day-western flavor of FX's "Justified."
Similarly, "Made in Jersey" feels like a clever mash-up of the central characters in "My Cousin Vinny" that's highly compatible with "Blue Bloods;" and "Elementary" -- a modern reworking of Sherlock Holmes -- is really just another version of "The Mentalist," the show it's replacing on Thursday, which should do just fine on Sunday nights.
If there was a flat note in the presentation, it appeared to be the sitcom "Partners," but even that looks like a reasonable fit with the Monday comedies, since "2 Broke Girls" still hasn't risen qualitatively to match the appeal of its two leads.
Mostly, CBS benefits from the chaotic moves being engineered by the other broadcast networks -- with the added bonus the Eye network gets next year's Super Bowl, along with the Grammys, to trumpet whatever midseason moves are necessary.
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves also sounded a welcome "We know where our bread's buttered" note in regard to new media, saying in a multi-screen environment, "the first screen" -- meaning television -- "must come first, and there's no second screen without it."
Oh, and as Columbo (most CBS viewers remember him) would say, one more thing: That opening number, mixing LL Cool J rapping with an opera singer? Totally hot.
Preliminary grade (subject to revision): A-