CBS Execs Explain ‘CSI,’ ‘Good Wife’ Moves



CBS execs have a message for comedians from the other networks who have poked fun this week at the Eye network’s reputation for having TV’s oldest audience: We’re not old!

“We’re a little tired of those old people jokes,” CBS President Leslie Moonves told a group of reporters gathered for a morning news conference Wednesday at the network’s headquarters in New York. “They don’t work anymore,” Moonves said, adding that CBS does just as well in attracting younger demos as the other guys.

He referred specifically to NBC’s Seth Meyers (of “Saturday Night Live”) and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, who both took “old age” shots at CBS at their networks’ respective “upfront” presentations to advertisers earlier this week.

The CBS news conference was held to reveal the network’s new fall lineup to journalists in advance of the network’s glitzy presentation at Carnegie Hall later that day. What made news? That had to be two high-profile scheduling shifts affecting two of CBS’ best-known shows – “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” the warhorse procedural that was once TV’s highest-rated drama (but not anymore) and spawned two spinoffs for CBS; and “The Good Wife,” the Julianna Margulies drama that will start its third season next fall.

“CSI” is moving out of its long-time home – 9 p.m. Thursdays (8c) – to Wednesday nights at 10/9c next fall. “The Good Wife” is moving from Tuesday nights at 10/9c – where it spent its first two seasons – to Sunday nights at 9/8c, where it will presumably do battle for women viewers primarily with the aging “Desperate Housewives” on ABC.

“We are basically hoping to give ourselves some stability at 10 o’clock [Wednesday],” said Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president of CBS prime time, explaining the shift. Indeed, the 10 p.m. Wednesday time period was anything but stable this past season as “The Defenders,” “Blue Bloods” and “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” each occupied it at different times. Kahl admitted the shift of “CSI” is a “big move,” but he also insisted, “There isn’t going to be any bump in the road here.”

The truth is, “CSI” – which just ended its 11th season – has been slipping in the ratings lately and a move to another night that’s not as competitive as Thursdays might be just what this aging series needs to stabilize itself. Meanwhile, a new series, “Person of Interest,” will take up residence in “CSI’s” old Thursday slot. This is the show from J.J. Abrams about a crime-fighter (Jim Caviezel) who applies his CIA and special-ops experience, together with a mysterious billionaire’s computer knowhow, to “identifying people about to be involved in violent crimes” and then preventing them.

As for “The Good Wife,” Kahl said the move to Sunday – which happens to be the night of the week when viewing levels are at their highest – is an indicator of the high confidence CBS has in the continued strength of this Chicago-based legal soap.

One thing the CBS execs would not reveal: Any details at all – not even the tiniest kernel of information – about how Ashton Kutcher will be worked into “Two and a Half Men.” They revealed nothing about the character he’ll play or how he’ll be introduced. “All of that is going to be revealed at a later date,” said CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler.

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