Adweek’s weeklong analysis of each broadcast network’s new fall shows continues with CBS, which overtook NBC to win last season in the 18-49 demo thanks in large part to airing Super Bowl 50 in February. A year ago, I noted that CBS entered last fall with the strongest crop of new shows among any of the broadcasters, but only two of them returned for a second season.
I’ll be making no such claims this year. CBS is rolling out six new shows—more than even ABC, which usually leads the pack—and I can’t remember another freshman fall lineup in which all shows were likely to be so warmly embraced by that network’s core audience while being completely rejected by everyone else. The diversity-phobic lineup includes three run-of-the-mill procedurals and three sitcoms with varying degrees of mustiness. (Midseason dramas Doubt and Training Day are much more promising than anything you'll find in the fall.)
While CBS tried to bring nontraditional viewers into the fold last fall with Supergirl (which has relocated to The CW), it's in full-on retreat mode this year, as it refuses to venture even slightly outside the lines of its well-defined brand, the most insular among the broadcasters. So, while this lineup is perfectly calibrated for CBS’ current audience, it's unlikely to bring anyone new, or younger, to the network. That's a big problem for a network with a median age of 59, according to Nielsen, which is four years higher than any other broadcaster.
There’s such a disparity between the CBS audience and everyone else that I have to modify my usual approach of ranking each new fall show from worst to best. (If you’re a non-CBS viewer, you can safely skip all of the shows below.) Instead, my rankings will focus on the appeal to CBS viewers and network advertisers, which are the only groups that will take any interest in these shows.
And while a pilot isn’t always the best way to judge a show’s ultimate potential, it’s often the only episode audiences watch before deciding whether to stick around or throw in the towel, especially given all the other new and returning shows fighting for attention. Also note that for the three shows that don’t premiere until after Thursday Night Football ends next month, CBS hasn’t made a final version of those episodes available yet, which could include recasting characters or other tweaks made to the original pilots that were provided to buyers after upfront presentations in May.
With all that in mind, here are CBS’ new fall shows, ranked from least promising to, well, just slightly better than that: