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CBS Isn't Fixing What's Not Broken

(Posted August 26, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES ( When "Everybody Loves Raymond" premiered in 1996, CBS was a network at sea. NBC had its Thursday juggernaut, with "Friends" and "Seinfeld" and "ER." ABC had the still-hot "NYPD Blue" and reliable comedies like "Roseanne" and "Home Improvement." FOX's "Melrose Place" was still in its water-cooler days.

And CBS? "Touched by an Angel," "Diagnosis Murder" and an aging "Murphy Brown."

Nine years later, when "Raymond" left the air in May, it did so as the top-rated comedy on television, on the most-watched network in television. The one-time "geezer network" was even near the top in the advertiser-Holy Grail demographic of adults 18-49, finishing last season only a tenth of a point behind first-place FOX.

That's not to say that "Raymond," for all of its success, singlehandedly changed the fortunes of CBS (a couple shows called "Survivor" and "CSI" played a pretty big part in the turnaround as well). But the Emmy-winning sitcom is emblematic of the way the network has built its success under Les Moonves and now, entertainment chief Nina Tassler: by scheduling well-made shows that appeal to as many people as possible, rather than reaching for some narrower demographic niche.

Not a great deal will change in 2005-06, and from CBS' perspective, it doesn't much need to.

"Our strategy remains to broadcast to everybody," Tassler says. "And in the process, we've reached more young viewers and expanded our definition of success."

The season's lineup includes the no-brainer move of "Two and a Half Men" to "Raymond's" old 9 p.m. Monday spot; reruns have thrived there this summer. The network is also taking a couple of calculated risks to attract younger viewers with the comedy "How I Met Your Mother," which has a safe spot on Monday nights, and the sci-fi drama "Threshold," which will air Fridays.

Two new dramas, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "Close to Home" and the creepy crime thriller "Criminal Minds," both move into tough timeslots -- Tuesday at 10 and Wednesday at 9 -- but both fit pretty well into the CBS ethos. The crime-in-the-suburbs vibe of "Close to Home," in particular, seems designed to recapture some of the younger female viewers "Judging Amy" lost in its last couple of years.

For the most part, though, Tassler has the enviable position of dealing from strength. CBS enjoyed a huge lead in total viewers over its rival networks last season, and with its returning shows for the most part still going strong and canny scheduling of new series, that doesn't figure to change a whole lot.

Source: Zap2it

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