If you look back at this past decade in TV, one thing pretty much has remained the same — people watch CBS. It’s continuously the most-watched network, and this year it won the title by the largest margin in decades (even though Fox won once again in viewers aged 18-49).
So what makes the network such a juggernaut? Really, you have to chalk it up to smart planning. Nina Tassler and Les Moonves have created a well-oiled programming machine, one that is at times ruthless when it comes to canceling shows but also one that manages to find that perfect balance between longtime hits and promising new shows that will pave the path to the future.
This past TV season has not only been in line with all of the statements above, but it may be one of CBS’ best years yet.
What worked – Really, there is very little that CBS has to be ashamed of here at all. Not only did they score a slam dunk with Ashton Kutcher on “Two and a Half Men” (even though the ratings dropped of throughout the year), but all of their comedies fared pretty well. “The Big Bang Theory” became the first show to really defeat “American Idol” on a regular basis, and “2 Broke Girls” already looks like the major hit of the future thanks to some incredible ratings that make the network confident enough that it can be the new anchor on Monday nights.
On the drama front, things continued to go fairly well. “Person of Interest” has already become a smash hit with a huge viewership, and many of their long-standing dramas (in the two “NCIS” shows and “Criminal Minds”) continued to do well. Even “CSI” recovered creatively with Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue on board, and had one of its best seasons in years.
Even when it comes to reality TV, it’s hard to complain about ratings drops for either “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race” when they are each 20+ seasons in. Moving “Undercover Boss” to Fridays also was a smart move, as it finally gave the network something that young people may actually watch on the night.
What didn’t – While CBS is lucky to have two new smash hits in “2 Broke Girls” and “Person of Interest,” they also had a lion’s share of duds this year. “How To Be a Gentleman” flopped, “Rob” struggled, and they were forced to renew “Rules of Engagement” despite below-average ratings as an insurance policy in the case of some other comedies not worked out. On the drama side, “NYC 22,” “A Gifted Man,” and “Unforgettable” were all notable failures.
While the network was able to overcome these missteps without too many problems, you do still have to wonder about the strength of their development slate. With “CSI: Miami” out, the other two installments on the series are on their last legs; meanwhile, “Two and a Half Men” and “How I Met Your Mother” could each be entering final seasons. Add to this “Survivor” and “NCIS” nearing the end, and you have a good many question marks for the future.
The future – Even with a good many shows getting long in the tooth, CBS has themselves set up well. “The Mentalist” and “Blue Bloods” are both still fairly early in their runs, and “Big Bang” and “Criminal Minds” could each have a few seasons left in the tank. So long as some new shows pan out, they should be able to keep their #1 status going as they always have.
Overall, both “Partners” and “Elementary” look like fall series destined to succeed — the only one we are not so sure about is “Made in Jersey,” mostly in that the name may scare people off who are thinking it is about fist-pumping partygoers at the Jersey Shore. “Vegas” is a bit of a question mark, but the presence of Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis should make up for a 1960s setting that has struggled on broadcast TV.
How would you rate CBS’ 2011-12 season now that it is over?