CBS Will Use The Big Bang Theory to Launch Its Big Bang Prequel This Fall

Les Moonves says his network, not NBC, is 'Must-See TV'

Young Sheldon, featuring a 9-year-old version of Jim Parsons' Big Bang character, will airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. Robert Voets/CBS
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With TV’s No. 1 broadcast series, The Big Bang Theory, secured for two more seasons—and a Big Bang prequel on the way this fall—CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said that his network, not NBC, is the true home of Must-See TV.

Moonves spoke to TV reporters this morning as CBS unveiled its new fall schedule ahead of this afternoon’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall.

After winning last season in the 18-49 demo thanks to the Super Bowl, the network slipped to third place this year, behind NBC and Fox, but it continues to dominate in total viewers, where it has finished No. 1 for nine consecutive years and 14 of the past 15 years.

“We are Must-See TV. You cannot live without the shows we have,” said Moonves, referencing NBC’s decision to resurrect its Thursday night moniker. Kelly Kahl, senior evp of CBS Primetime, noted that the NCIS franchise has more viewers than any Shonda Rhimes-produced show on ABC or the Chicago franchise drama on NBC.

Moonves was pinch-hitting for CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller, who is on medical leave through the end of May after suffering a mild heart attack and “is doing better,” according to Moonves. In his absence during development season, “our development people really stepped up to the plate.”

While CBS is airing six new shows this fall, the most important piece of its fall schedule is the return of The Big Bang Theory, after CBS secured a two-year renewal this spring. Moonves said he personally met with the Big Bang cast during negotiations. “We hope it goes on beyond that, I can’t make any promises,” he said. “In my book, Everybody Loves Raymond closed down three years too early. You want to leave on top, but you don’t want to leave money on the table”

The Big Bang Theory is so popular, “even its repeats outdraw any comedy on TV,” said Kelly Kahl. That’s why CBS will use the show to launch a pair of comedies: its Big Bang prequel, Young Sheldon, and 9JKL.

When Big Bang shifts to Mondays at the beginning of the season during Thursday Night Football, it will lead into 9JKL, a family comedy from and starring Mark Feuerstein, based on his experience filming USA’s Royal Pains while living in an apartment between his parents and his brother’s family. The show “has a Raymond feel to it,” said Kahl.

Kevin Can Wait will air at 9 p.m., followed by Me, Myself and I, which is “a very unique property,” said Kahl. It looks at different points of one man’s life during a 50-year span, with both Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette playing him.

After NFL football, Kevin Can Wait will return to Mondays at 8 p.m., where “it established a really nice beachhead for us last year,” said Kahl. At that point, Me, Myself & I will air at 9 p.m., followed by Superior Donuts.

CBS’s Tuesday lineup of NCIS, Bull and NCIS: New Orleans, which Kahl called “TV’s most-watched night,” won’t change. Noting that NBC, ABC and Fox have all programmed sitcoms that night at 9 p.m., Kahl said, “if you think there’s gridlock in Washington, check out all the comedies at 9.”

On Wednesdays, CBS is shifting Criminal Minds, which aired at 9 p.m. for 12 years, back to 10, where it “will give us stability there.” In its place is Seal Team, a new drama starring David Boreanaz, about the most elite Navy Seal team. Kahl said it’s a “high-octane, good, natural bridge between the two shows.”

After five weeks of Thursday Night Football, which will feature “a better lineup of games this year,” said Kahl, the network will return The Big Bang Theory to 8 p.m., followed by Young Sheldon, which was “the obvious choice” to follow it. The new series will focus on Sheldon childhood (played by Jim Parsons in Big Bang), when he started high school in Texas as a 9-year-old.

Kahl said the series is a single-camera show, and its tone is more like The Wonder Years or Doogie Howser, M.D., than Big Bang. “It’s not Muppet Babies,” with younger versions of all the Big Bang characters, said Kahl. Young Sheldon and Big Bang are “tonally very different, but they work.” Young Sheldon will launch on Monday, Sept. 25, after The Big Bang Theory’s season premiere, before moving to Thursdays after football.

Mom and Life in Pieces will continue at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., followed by new drama S.W.A.T., starring Criminal Minds alum Shemar Moore.

Friday’s lineup of MacGyver, Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods remains unchanged. “We have a winning strategy, these shows work together” and get over 10 million viewers, said Kahl. “It’s the only night on network television last year where all three hours improved from a year ago.” Meanwhile, for “the competition, this is kind of like the island of misfit toys.”

CBS is also keeping its Crimetime and 48 Hours lineup in place on Saturdays.

On Sundays, 60 Minutes, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary, will stay at 7 p.m. “We won’t take too many shots at Megyn Kelly here. … yet,” said Moonves of the show’s new Sunday night competition from NBC this summer.

But NCIS: Los Angeles and Madam Secretary will each move back an hour to make way for Wisdom of the Crowd, starring Jeremy Piven as a Steve Jobs-like figure who gives up his company and creates an app to crowdsource crime solving in an attempt to help track down criminals and solve his daughter’s murder.

CBS has two new shows for midseason: By the Book, about a man who decides to live his life according to the bible, and Instinct, based on the James Patterson novel about a former CIA operative, played by Alan Cumming, who is tasked to help the NYPD stop a serial killer

All of CBS’ new shows feature male leads and with 2 Broke Girls’ cancellation, CBS has very few shows left centered around women. “The best pilots win at the end of the day,” said Moonves. “We think our track record is okay.”

Moonves said CBS was offered a crack at the American Idol revival, which eventually went to ABC, but “the economics just made absolutely no sense for us,” he explained. “The price is so expensive, you need a 35 share to break even. So that’s not going to happen.”


(New programs in ALL CAPS)

8-8:30 p.m. — The Big Bang Theory (until November)/Kevin Can Wait (starting in November)
8:30-9 p.m. — 9JKL
9-9:30 p.m. — Kevin Can Wait (until November)/ME, MYSELF & I (starting in November)
9:30-10 p.m. — ME, MYSELF & I (until November)/Superior Donuts (starting in November; new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — Scorpion

8-9 p.m. — NCIS
9-10 p.m. —  Bull
10-11 p.m. — NCIS: New Orleans

8-9 p.m. — Survivor
9-10 p.m. — SEAL TEAM
10-11 p.m. — Criminal Minds (new time slot)

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. — YOUNG SHELDON (starting in November)
9-9:30 p.m. — Mom (starting in November)
9:30-10 p.m. — Life in Pieces (starting in November)
10-11 p.m. — S.W.A.T. (starting in November)

8-9 p.m. — MacGyver
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
9-10 p.m. — NCIS: Los Angeles (new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — Madam Secretary (new time slot)

The Amazing Race, BY THE BOOK, Code Black, Elementary, INSTINCT, Man With a Plan, Undercover Boss

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.