CBS is much younger than people think—and now that it's ending CSI and adding Supergirl, the network is about to get even younger.
That was the big message from Les Moonves, president and CEO, CBS Corp., as he and network execs revealed the 2015-16 schedule this morning, ahead of the afternoon's upfront presentation.
This season, "we came in second to NBC in adults 18-49 by 122,000. That's less than Paterson, N.J.," said Moonves, who noted NBC's victory was due to airing the Super Bowl. "Guess who has the Super Bowl next year?"—that would be CBS, which airs Super Bowl 50, on Feb. 7, 2016—"So we're pretty confident going into the season."
CBS did finish the season No. 1 in adults ages 25-54. "The idea of the old fogey network should really be put away forever," said Moonves, who also countered the perception the network has a musty lineup by noting that five freshman shows are returning next season (Madam Secretary, Scorpion, CSI: Cyber, NCIS: New Orleans and The Odd Couple). "This is a very young schedule, so our future is pretty well assured," he said.
And it's getting even younger now that the network is saying farewell to CSI, which after 15 seasons will conclude with "an epic two-hour finale" on Sept. 27, said Nina Tassler. Original cast members William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger will return.
"This is one of the strongest, longest-running dramas in TV history," said Kelly Kahl, senior evp, prime time, crediting CSI for helping reverse the network's fortunes when it debuted in 2000. Current CSI star Ted Danson, meanwhile, will join the cast of CSI: Cyber, which returns in the Sunday 10 p.m. slot vacated by CSI.
The network is preparing for Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman when The Late Show With Stephen Colbert premieres Sept. 8. Jo Ann Ross, president, network sales, said Colbert has told advertisers that when it comes to integrations, "he will be advertiser-friendly, but it will be in his own voice. It will be organic."
For the second year, CBS will air Thursday Night Football, starting Sept. 17, and will temporarily deploy TV's top-rated scripted series, The Big Bang Theory, to Monday nights at 8, paired with Life in Pieces, a new comedy about one family told through four separate stories each week. "It is a classic, but very progressive family comedy," said Tassler. "These are shows that families can watch together"
When Big Bang returns to Thursdays in November post-football, CBS will debut its most-anticipated new fall series, Supergirl, Mondays at 8 p.m., meaning its Monday lineup will be comedy-free for the first time since 1949 (yes, 1949!).
Tassler said that while some doubted a superhero series could be a fit for CBS, the lead character—a 24-year-old woman coming of age—"was a hero we could root for. She was the girl next door." As such, "we see this as a much broader show than a genre or comic book show," said Kahl.
While the show "is very true to the mythology of Supergirl," said Tassler, "we've been given license to make some adjustments." And yes, Supergirl's cousin Superman "is a part of her universe," said Tassler.
New drama Limitless, which airs after NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans on Tuesday, is based on the 2011 film starring Bradley Cooper, who is an executive producer on the show. He'll also appear in the pilot, and in future episodes "subject to availability," said Tassler (i.e., sweeps episodes).
Following Survivor and Criminal Minds on Wednesday, new medical drama Code Black is set in the country's busiest ER. Tassler, who worked on NBC's ER, said Code Black has "the feel that ER had" and thinks the show could be "the future of the medical genre."
After football ends on Thursday, CBS will debut new sitcom Angel From Hell, starring Jane Lynch as a guardian angel, at 9:30 p.m.
Held for midseason are two new dramas: Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, a spinoff starring Gary Sinise (but not Anna Gunn, who has left the show), and Rush Hour, based on the three Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker movies.
While CBS has a weak track record with bringing back its midseason shows (CSI: Cyber and The Odd Couple are rare exceptions), Tassler said this lineup is "worthy and strong enough to be on any fall schedule. It's literally a matter of shelf space."
Many expected CBS to announce that next season would be the last for The Good Wife, but Tassler said no end date has been set. She added of the show's creators Robert and Michelle King, "As long as they want to continue producing and writing, we love having that show on our air."
She wasn't as bullish on the long-term future of Person of Interest, which has been held for midseason. "We're having conversations" about whether next season will be its last," said Tassler. "If it is, then we'll have a great ending."
Here's a look at CBS' fall 2015-16 schedule. New programs are in ALL CAPS:
8-8:30 p.m. — The Big Bang Theory (until November)
8:30-9 p.m. — LIFE IN PIECES (until November)
8-9 p.m. — SUPERGIRL (starting in November)
9-10 p.m. — Scorpion
10-11 p.m. — NCIS: Los Angeles
8-9 p.m. — NCIS
9-10 p.m. — NCIS: New Orleans
10-11 p.m. — LIMITLESS
8-9 p.m. — Survivor
9-10 p.m. — Criminal Minds
10-11 p.m. — CODE BLACK
8-11 p.m. — Thursday Night Football (until November)
8-8:30 p.m. — The Big Bang Theory (starting in November)
8:30-9 p.m. — LIFE IN PIECES (starting in November)
9-9:30 p.m. — Mom (starting in November)
9:30-10 p.m. — ANGEL FROM HELL (starting in November)
10-11 p.m. — Elementary (starting in November)
8-9 p.m. — The Amazing Race
9-10 p.m. — Hawaii Five-O
10-11 p.m. — Blue Bloods
8-10 p.m. — Crimetime Saturday
10-11 p.m. — 48 Hours
7-8 p.m. — 60 Minutes
8-9 p.m. — Madam Secretary
9-10 p.m. — The Good Wife
10-11 p.m. — CSI: Cyber (new time)
CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS, Mike & Molly, The Odd Couple, Person of Interest, RUSH HOUR, 2 Broke Girls, Undercover Boss