NEW YORK (Reuters) - CBS unveiled three new dramas and two comedies for its fall prime-time lineup on Wednesday, with executives promising more laughs and female faces from a network known for its popular crime dramas.
In rolling out five new shows for the fall, CBS, which often trumpets the stability of its lineup, introduced far more changes than Walt Disney Co’s ABC after a development season abbreviated by the 14-week screenwriters’ strike.
News Corp’s Fox will take the wraps off its 2008-09 schedule on Thursday. General Electric Co’s NBC did so last month, in a departure from the traditional announcement during the so-called “upfront week” in May.
Next, over the coming weeks, the broadcast networks will get down to signing around $9 billion worth of commercial deals with advertisers for the new season.
At CBS, executives have picked up three new dramas titled “The Mentalist,” “Eleventh Hour” and “The Ex List,” as well as a pair of sitcoms — “Worst Week” and “Project Gary” — that give the network a comedy bloc for two nights a week.
Three of those shows — “Ex List,” “Eleventh Hour” and “Worst Week” — are based on the formats of overseas programs in what has emerged as another post-strike programming trend.
“When the strike was done, the day after, we hit the ground running,” Chief Executive Les Moonves said at a news conference. “The compressed development schedule forced people to concentrate more and work harder.”
Another executive, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler, said the network sought to add more and bigger roles for women to its lineup, which is best known for its “CSI” crime series, comedies “Two and a Half Men” and “How I Met Your Mother,” and the long-running reality series “Survivor.”
“Women drive network television — there’s no mystery to that,” said Tassler, adding that during development CBS executives looked at whether some roles written for men could be “reconceived” for women.
Tassler pointed to “The Ex List” as one hourlong comedic drama expected to appeal strongly to the female audience. Its plot, adapted from an Israeli series, centers on a single woman in her 30s who is told by a psychic that she must revisit past men in her life to find her future husband in the next year.
In the comedy department, CBS chose two half-hour sitcoms centering on male protagonists: “Worst Week,” adapted from a British show about a soon-to-be bridegroom finding himself in one mess after another, and “Project Gary,” starring comedian Jay Mohr as a recently divorced father of two who is looking for love.
“Project Gary” will be teamed on Wednesday nights with the Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” an award-winning but modestly rated show.
On the drama front, CBS introduced “The Mentalist,” featuring a former celebrity psychic who goes to work as a detective for the California Bureau of Investigation.
Another new drama is the police procedural “Eleventh Hour,” a British import from producer Jerry Bruckheimer about a biophysicist and special adviser to the government.
Tassler said CBS would be producing pilots for new shows year round, and already planned to introduce the murder mystery drama “Harper’s Island” at midseason.
Among the shows CBS is dropping from its schedule next season are the courtroom drama “Shark,” which starred Oscar-nominated actor James Woods, and vampire thriller “Moonlight.”