'We're not just creepy cop shows anymore," the CBS honchos crowed yesterday, unveiling three new dramas that feature a vampire private eye, singing gamblers in the desert, and smouldering Latin-family intrigue starring smouldering Jimmy Smits.
The net has also skedded a new sitcom about two geeks and a girl and an intriguing-sounding reality show populated by kids. It nuked Jericho, closed Close to Home, dismissed The Class, and then did a little flip-flop. Without a Trace goes back to Thursdays at 10, and James Woods' Shark shifts to Sundays.
The Big Eye, aptly, draws more eyeballs than any other network, but it has suffered from a one-note image. Night after night, people get killed and criminals caught, delighting an older audience. The net wants to keep those folks, while attracting younger viewers, who elicit a premium from advertisers.
"We approached our development this year with a specific goal in mind - to be daring and different," CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said in a press release.
Mission accomplished, at least in one instance. Viva Laughlin, produced by, and occasionally featuring, X-Man Hugh Jackman, will include scenes where the characters burst into song. They'll be lip-synching contemporary tunes, not, everybody at the network is anxious to explain, mimicking the disastrous 1990 ABC musical series Cop Rock.
Cancellation of Jericho was a minor surprise. The series started strongly last fall, then went on hiatus. When it returned, millions of viewers didn't. ABC's Lost and NBC's Heroes suffered similar fates, but the drops were not enough to kill the series.
The network also announced a mid-season show, Swingtown, about sexy '70s suburbanites "who share much more than recipes," and a game show hosted by Drew Carey that will premiere this summer. Missing this fall, The New Adventures of Old Christine and The Amazing Race will join Swingtown in the winter.
The new fall shows:
Viva Laughlin (Sun. 8 p.m.) - Cockeyed optimist seeks to open a casino while keeping the home fires burning and police, who suspect he might be a murderer, at bay. It's based on a BBC series, Viva Blackpool.
The Big Bang Theory (Mon. 8:30) - Things could get interesting if the script for this sitcom's as risque as the title. Roseanne's Johnny Galecki heads a squad of brainiacs who come close to meltdown when hot Kaley Cuoco (8 Simple Rules) moves into the neighborhood.
Cane (Tue. 10 p.m.) - Smits is the standout in a massive drama about Cuban Americans in the rum and sugar business in South Florida. Nestor Carbonell, Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno all make the scene.
(Wed. 8 p.m.) - New fall reality shows are as rare as children who can take care of themselves. This program has 40 of them, aged 8 to 15, struggling for a month to bring life to a New Mexico ghost town. There are no vote-offs, but kids can leave. Will it turn into
Lord of the Flies?
Moonlight (Fri. 9 p.m.) - Sixty years into immortality after being bitten by a gorgeous vamp, this dashing undead dude can't stick with his own kind. Instead, he tries to protect mortal folk, and - ugh! - might even be falling for one of them.
CBS's Short List
Rules of Engagement
How I Met Your Mother
Close to Home