May 15, 2019

NIELSENWAR: The Fall 2019 CBS Schedule & Analysis

We’ve reached the broadcast networks’ Upfront Week… which used to be a lot more central to our television lives than it is now.  Ratings everywhere are down, and there’s no reason to think they’ve hit bottom, which has caused seismic changes in the ways networks make scheduling decisions.  Among other things, with revenues from on-air linear advertising shrinking, distribution rights are key, and the desire for flexibility often means shorter orders than the traditional 13 + 9.  We’ll take a look at each network’s new slate as it’s announced.

CBS, traditionally among the most conservative networks when it comes to scheduling, is shaking up some nights next fall:

LAST SEASON:  It’s end of an era time at CBS.  The network lost patriarch Les Moonves via scandal, and its flagship series The Big Bang Theory is about to depart.  Add to that the erosion in NCIS and its spin-offs, and after years of relying on its veterans, it was time for CBS to change.

FALL:  Two nights of the week are being ripped up, more or less, although the new entries still seem mostly on brand for a network that’s always been very mindful of its target audience..

Monday:  The Neighborhood returns, but partnered now with the new Chuck Lorre comedy BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA.  (As is usually the case with Lorre, the pilot script is credited not just to him but to senior writer/producers Eddie Gorodetsky, Al Higgins and Gina Yashere.)  It stars Billy Gardell from Mike & Molly, and it continues the interracial comedy theme of its lead-in.  The sitcoms are followed by the legal procedural ALL RISE, from creator Greg Spottiswood, whose previous shows were Canadian productions.  The night winds up with the somewhat controversial return of Bull, this time without producer Steven Spielberg attached.

Tuesday:  NCIS, FBI and NCIS: New Orleans all return..

Wednesday:  Survivor is followed by a pair of the network’s more recent procedurals, SEAL Team and SWAT.

Thursday:  We’re finally going to find out how Young Sheldon performs without its Big Bang Theory lead-in.  Its lead-out will be the new sitcom THE UNICORN, starring Walton Goggins as a middle-aged man back in the dating pool, and created by veterans Bill Martin and Mike Schiff, whose credits date back to 3rd Rock From the Sun, and who were recently on the CBS sitcoms Fam and Living Biblically.  After Mom, the network presents the Patricia Heaton vehicle CAROL’S SECOND ACT, from Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, who created the short-lived but admired Trophy Wife.  The biggest wild card on the schedule comes at 10PM in the form of EVIL, a horror hour created by Robert & Michelle King, who gave us The Good Wife and its spin-off.

Friday:  Hawaii 5-0 slides to 8PM, and in place of the MacGyver reboot, the night features the Magnum PI reboot, relocated from Mondays.  Blue Bloods stays at 10PM.

Sunday:  60 Minutes, God Friended Me, NCIS: LA and Madam Secretary all return, although the latter will only be on hand for a truncated 10-episode final run.

MIDSEASON:  The comedy BROKE, the FBI spin-off FBI: MOST WANTED, and cop drama TOMMY starring Edie Falco, as well as MacGyver and the final season of Criminal Minds.

FORECAST:  For the most part, the schedule shifts should provide a fairly steady result.  But Thursdays are going to determine whether the season is seen as a win or a loss for CBS, and whether the network can get past the loss of TV’s biggest comedy without serious wounds.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."


  1. Monzo

    I was surprised that CBS didn’t use Survivor to launch a new drama. Seal Team got a great timeslot for two seasons and it just doesn’t work. There’s got to be a stronger lead-out for Survivor out there!

  2. Riff

    Your grades are too kind.

    FOX – Well, they’re trying. Too many returning shows shuffled (the new programs don’t deserve the welcome mat), which will only serve to expedite their deaths (fine by us), but another night of sports is always appreciated. Still, as the only network to launch a new show with a pulse and the only one to show any improvement at all, FOX gets the best grade. C

    NBC – They’re not trying. Other than the Chicago shows, no improvement whatsoever. New programs are abysmal deep-state garbage. They’re spared from an “F” because of Sunday Night Football, “America’s Got Talent” and not moving everything everywhere. D

    CBS – This sinking soon-to-be-sorry-excuse-for-a-network is now making spinoffs of shows that have been on for all of one season, performing horribly through all of it. If you didn’t lose your lunch trying to watch the trailer for their pathetic new pile of miscegenation propaganda, “Bob Hearts Whatever”, your stomach is stronger than mine. Congrats on not having one single returning show grow so much as 1% year-to-year. Even ABC had a few that did that. Speaking of which, say hi to ABC. You’re the next incarnation of it. D-.

    ABC – You gotta be kiddin’ me. They ordered a zillion busted pilots once again only to make the cornerstone of their fall schedule something NBC passed on. P.S. Why on EARTH is “How to Get Away with Murder” still on the air?! F

    CW – Go out of business already. F-

    • Monzo

      I remember very well when CBS cancelled every long-running drama after the season finale aired: all Bruckheimer shows, Numbers, Judging Amy just to name a few. Only CSI got a tv movie send-off, but suddenly even low-rated shows like Elementary or Madame Secretary deserve a final season, this just proves how desperate CBS is these days.

      I’m not surprised that How To Get Away With Murder got renewed. It’s just Shondaland, I think it was a tough decision to cancel Shonda’s For The People since Shonda won’t create new shows for ABC. Now there are just three Shonda shows left.

      Biggest cancellation surprise to me this year was Star. Didn’t see this coming, especially since Empire and Star were getting closer in demos, especially young adults. Also, both Empire and Star were not as much DVR’d than most network shows, so people seemed to watch it live, which is still important today.

  3. BILL G

    So has MacGyver been canceled, or what?

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