Broke girls and natty gentlemen: CBS

PHD's Helena Shelton calls out her favourite show of the upfronts (hint: J. J. Abrams) and outlines CBS's strong new schedule.

Early this morning, Fred ‘my upfront buddy’ Forster went back to Toronto and left me all alone.

Sad and lonely, I slogged through the rain to get to Carnegie Hall for the CBS presentation. Once there I ran into fellow Canucks, got caught up in the excitement of the New York upfront crowd and completely forgot all about Fred.

Being the number one network, CBS already has a solid schedule without many holes to fill, and therefore only presented six new shows. They did show very slick reels that talked about the success of their sports, daytime and news programming.

The presentation began with a video featuring the cast of Blue Bloods catching Regis stealing the CBS prime-time schedule and Tom Selleck delivering it to CBS president Les Moonves on stage. Ashton Kutcher was one of many stars there and he spoke about his excitement about returning to TV and particularly, about being a part of ratings juggernaut Two and a Half Men. What CBS did not address, and what we believe will be critical to the show’s continued success, is this: how will they introduce the character? What will his relationship be to the current characters?

Two new comedies were introduced: 2 Broke Girls was about two waitresses, each under desperate financial circumstances, working in a diner because they are broke. Starring Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and relative newcomer Beth Behrs, and written by Sex and The City‘s Michael Patrick King, this one got huge applause and there was general agreement that it was the network’s next big comedic hit.

How to be a Gentleman, CBS’s second comedy about a man, played by David Hornsby (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), whose magazine is bought and goes from metrosexual to Maxim-esque, leading him to enlist the help of a personal trainer, played by Kevin Dillon (Entourage), to teach him how to be more manly and assertive. This one also got lots of laughs, but was clearly not as popular as 2 Broke Girls.

CBS also presented three new dramas: A Gifted Man starring Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Jennifer Ehle (The King’s Speech), about a gifted but self-centered neurosurgeon visited by his dead ex-wife who convinces him to continue her free clinic work. From the director of Silence of The Lambs, this show will do well in its new Friday 8 p.m. time slot. Unforgettable is the story of a women who remembers everything of every minute of her life in great detail (don’t all women?) and uses this gift to help solve crimes. Starring Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace), the clips on this one looked great and audience reactions were very positive.

My personal favorite of the week was Person of Interest – CBS must feel the same way I do as they gave it the prime-time slot of Thursday at 9 p.m. It was described as ‘high tech meets highly trained vigilante.’ It’s the story of a computer whiz, played by Michael Emerson (Lost) who can predict crimes based on data patterns and ex-CIA agent Jim Caviezel (The Prisoner) who helps stop them, vigilante-style. From J. J. Abrams, CBS tells us this is their best-ever tested pilot since CSI. Later on at dinner there was complete agreement that this was an excellent show.

One mid-season replacement, The 2-2, produced by Robert De Niro, is about rookie cops in New York City (there were no clips), and completed the new-show portions of the presentation.

A complete review of the prime-time schedule showed a solid comedic Monday night, strategic schedule changes of The Good Wife and CSI: Miami to Sunday night and their weakest new show A Gifted Man in the appropriate time slot of Friday at 8 p.m.

Finished in just over an hour, this was a slick upbeat presentation with an energetic audience that loved pretty much everything they saw. Sadly, the CW tomorrow will be my last report wrapping up another exciting upfront!