NEW YORK - No one seems more excited about "The Jay Leno Show" than the programmers at CBS.
With Leno on NBC at 10 every weeknight next season, CBS' crime-busters - be they cops, forensic scientists, mathematicians or fake psychics - are free to patrol the airwaves, keeping them safe for drama.
"We think the 10 o'clock change is huge," CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves told reporters yesterday morning over the press breakfast where the network's executives traditionally outline their new season plans before presenting them to advertisers at a somewhat glitzier afternoon affair at Carnegie Hall.
"Not going to comment about how well Jay will do - Jay is terrific. Jay's a great entertainer. It's just a real sea change . . . No matter how well he [does], there's going to be more share available at 10 o'clock for the people who put on great dramas, and I think that's what we do," Moonves said.
One of those dramas, CBS' freshman hit, "The Mentalist," will be moving to 10 p.m. Thursdays in the fall, clearing a spot after the seemingly "American Idol"-proof "NCIS" for a 9 p.m. Tuesday spin-off, "NCIS: Los Angeles," which will star Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J.
Another new drama, "The Good Wife," is scheduled for 10 p.m. Tuesdays. It stars Julianna Margulies ("ER") as a woman who goes back to work as a defense lawyer after a scandal lands her politician husband (Chris Noth) in prison.
Harking back to the days when "Judging Amy" aired there, Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president for programming, said, "Legal shows have worked really well here, and now we have the only one in the time slot."
Also moving to 10 p.m.: Sunday's "Cold Case." The Philadelphia-set show, which escaped the ax that fell on two other dramas, "Without a Trace" and "The Unit," has "an incredibly loyal audience," Kahl said, noting that no matter when it airs - and like the rest of the Sunday lineup, it's often delayed by sports programming - "the audience always sticks around for 'Cold Case.' "
Canceling "Trace" and "The Unit," both of which had been reported to be on the same economics-driven bubble as "Cold Case," "was very hard," said CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler. "Those were two great shows."
In a move that you didn't need to be a psychic, fake or otherwise, to see coming, CBS picked up the NBC-canceled "Medium," which is produced by CBS Television Studios, and plans to sandwich it between "Ghost Whisperer" and "Numbers."
"If 'Ghost Whisperer' and 'Numbers' had an offspring, it would be 'Medium,' " said Tassler.
Asked afterward whether the last-minute pickup of "Medium" had sealed the fates of either "The Unit" or "Trace," Kahl indicated it had not, suggesting instead that a new show originally intended for fall had instead been pushed off to midseason.
Besides the "NCIS" spin-off and "The Good Wife," CBS also added "Three Rivers," a medical drama set in an organ transplant unit that stars Alex O'Loughlin, and "Accidentally on Purpose," a comedy starring Jenna Elfman ("Dharma & Greg") that's based on former Oakland Tribune film critic Mary Pols' memoir of becoming pregnant after a one-night stand.
Tassler, who canceled O'Loughlin's last show, the vampire-detective series "Moonlight," seemed confident that the young women who loved him in that will love him just as much as a transplant surgeon, and that the addition of a 41-year-old rapper - LL Cool J - to CBS' lineup would also attract younger viewers.
(CBS is currently No. 1 in total viewers and is expected to tie for first for the season with Fox among 25- to 54-year-olds, but like all networks, it longs to skew younger.)
On the "reality" front, besides bringing back "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," the network's ordered, but not yet scheduled, two other unscripted series: "Arranged Marriage," which "intimately documents . . . three arranged marriages" contracted by couples who've let their friends and families choose a spouse for them; and "Undercover Boss," in which high-level executives go incognito within their own companies, then afterward call their unsuspecting employees in for a chat.
Sounds a little stomach-churning, frankly, but while Tassler said there would be "repercussions" for workers who may have run afoul of the boss, "we're sensitive to the economic climate."
Which suggests, at least, that this one won't end with Donald Trump barking, "You're fired!"
With the final sing-off between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert averaging 23 million viewers, Fox's much-promoted preview of the hourlong musical comedy "Glee" lost more than half that audience, with viewership dropping below 9 million in the second half-hour, according to the preliminary Nielsens.
"Glee," which already has a berth on Fox's fall schedule, won't be back until then.
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In Tuesday's column, I gave the incorrect times for "Law & Order" and "Southland" next season. "L&O" will air at 8 p.m. Fridays, followed by "Southland" at 9. *