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CBS Upfront Roundup

Ah CBS, my problematic fave of a network. Though network execs always boast that CBS is most watched every year, their 18-49 demo ratings didn’t fare so well. However after years of criticism all of their new shows are led by actors of color!

Before I get into those, some renewal and cancellations in a season where C3 ratings dropped by 16%.

Other than BBT‘s sequel Young Sheldon (renewed in January), none of the fall premieres did stellar with Me, Myself, and I dying six episodes into its season. Wisdom of the Crowd did not receive a back 9 with its ratings which put it as the lowest rated new drama for CBS. WOTC evoked 2016-2017’s failed APB, another fancy technology by rich dude solves crime better than actual detectives. (The Piven allegations tanked any chance of it receiving a back 9). 

Dramas Seal Team and S.W.A.T received renewals in March with their viewer numbers putting them in the top five for most watched shows. However, their renewals highlight how the TV ad revenue is changing.

We did get Instinctthe first broadcast show with a gay man for the first billed character (and bisexual actor)! Somehow even with its middling ratings it got a renewal so I’m really happy about that. 

2018-2019 Pickups 

Finally some inclusive casts with more than one token nonwhite lead! It only took forever. CBS picked up nine shows in the same vein as their past shows with straight to series orders for the Murphy Brown reboot and F.B.I (from last year’s pilots). 

Dramas (5)

Four are cop/law enforcement procedurals, but all of them have two actors of color or more leading each show which for CBS is a big deal. In fact, all their new comedies are inclusively lead, and Murphy Brown added Nik Dodani. Putting CBS in second place to NBC for number of inclusive casts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a bunch of cop shows but the casting indicates that CBS is finally getting with it. They get a gold star for that and also for not going the post Roseanne pick up an all white show route!

Magnum P.I. has Jay Hernandez as the titular character and Stephen Hill as TC. Magnum is actually one of the few older procedurals I haven’t seen (grew up on Hawaii Five o and Matlock for example). Though I gave up on H50 years ago, I love Macgyver and if this writing team is good, then I’ll continue with Magnum after the pilot. The trailer was fun and entertaining with some emotion too since one of his buddies was murdered. And I liked the 5 0 mention because clearly we will get a crossover at some point. Lenkov is happy, I’m sure with all of his shows airing in the fall.

Though I have questions about jurisdiction now…

CBS is adding the F.B.I. to their special forces/intelligence organization roster (in between NCIS and NCIS NO). This time set in the NYC office. Zeeko Zaki and Ebonee Noel are two of four leads. I really liked Missy in Rookie Blue but it’s hard to say if I’ll try it out. I am glad they’re showing how harmful white terrorists are! It might do well but the network already has three NCIS series, shows about a SWAT team, a SEAL team, and of course the fictional BAU in Criminal Minds. But, the fall spot indicates that CBS wants it to survive.

Two dramas are set for midseason.

The Code stars Ato Essandoh, Raffi Barsoumian, Phillipa Soo and two others (currently recasting) as the Marine’s brightest minds who are trained as prosecutor, defense lawyer, and investigator. No trailer so not much to say.

Then there’s one of three Berlanti Productions, The Red Line. This seems poised to have one short close-ended season unless it gets great ratings. Following the aftermath of a White cop mistakenly shoots and kills a Black doctor from each of the the perspectives, this is definitely a show the CBS audience needs to see. Especially because it has an openly gay Indian high school teacher who is Daniel Calder (Noah Wyle) and his daughter Jira’s support system. Meaning Daniel Calder’s husband is the slain doctor. So it’s going to cause a lot of discussion but depending on the writing, could really send a message to all the old people who watch CBS.

Oh and Michael Patrick Thornton plays one of three characters with a visible disability across all 36 series that we know of and uses a wheelchair in real life! The Red Line is the kind of show I’ll wait to marathon once it’s done.

Three of the nine shows I regularly watch are CBS procedurals (ElementaryBull, and Macgyver) so I’m not sure how many of the others I’ll add to my list.

Finally, God Friended Me, another Berlanti Prods. is about God friending an outspoken atheist. At first that seems really silly, but the trailer actually won me over. I’m definitely going to watch the first few episodes. Plus who doesn’t like stories about a bunch of people unexpectedly crossing paths.

Comedies (4)

Murphy Brown added Nik Dodani to in canon to update the characters, and also make the show not entirely White. I didn’t watch the original but will try this out. It looks like a direct response to news shows in our post election everything.

On the flip-side, the other comedies all center Black families!

Cedric the Entertainer leads The Neighborhood as the main neighbor to the new White family in town from Michigan who are maybe too neighborly. (The dad is getting recast so the aired pilot might turn out very differently.)

Damon Wayans Jr. leads Happy Together following his Jake and wife Claire who reconnect with their younger, cooler selves when an artist movies in to their home.

Then there’s Fam and Nina Dobrev’s return to network TV in midseason. Her fiance and his family are Black and will have to deal with her ridiculous half-sister. Oh and Nina’s Clem hadn’t told anyone about the sister or her dad. Oops.

I’m actually thinking about trying the pilots out for all three new shows which I never do for comedies so hopefully one of these survives to next year!

Verdict

CBS is gonna CBS. Procedurals are stable performers and as on brand as sports is to be for NewFOX in a year or two. Though cop shows primarily exist to tell a specific narrative about police especially on this network, I absolutely salute whoever oversaw casting this year.

For the first year in forever, and years after critical questioning at the Upfront, every single one of their casts has at multiple leads of color (except Murphy Brown). This change indicates that even if more inclusive casting is for advertising revenue, the network is getting with it. And unlike other networks, adding these inclusively casts goes against the Roseanne inspired scheduling choices.

More importantly, though Instinct and Madam Secretary have a gay and bisexual character, the shows are sadly not getting the most viewers. The first as a midseason entry, and the last in its fourth season. Both received renewals and Instinct is held for midseason again.

Hopefully then, the new shows with inclusive characters do perform well and lead to a new normal for the network. I’m especially interested to see how Red Line does with its particular topic.

What do y’all think of these shows?


Images courtesy of CBS

Seher
Written By

Seher obsesses over show ratings and usually writes about media representation issues. Otherwise, she's reading away for her graduate program in anthropology.

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