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CBS Accents a Monday Rebuilding Project in New Fall Lineup Marked by 'Magnum P.I.,' 'Murphy Brown' Reboots and Heavy-Duty Diversity
May 16, 2018  | By Ed Bark

A completely rebuilt Monday, including a Magnum P.I. reboot, highlights CBS’ new fall schedule while another second coming, Murphy Brown, will be joining the network’s Thursday prime-time lineup.

During an early morning teleconference with TV writers, CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl said the new lineup boils down to “stability where we are strong and change where we need it.” And Monday needed a major overhaul, he said, after CBS finished an unaccustomed third on that night behind NBC and ABC. “We don’t like to be there,” he said.

CBS also is adding an additional four new series, equally divided between comedy and drama. It’s an unusually high number for a network that stresses stability above all, but the loss of Thursday Night Football to Fox left that entire night open this fall.

Kahl also noted that CBS caught NBC in the final weeks of this season to rank No. 1 in total viewers for the 10th straight season despite the Peacock airing both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics. CBS has 14 series averaging 10 million-plus viewers, more than the combined number for ABC, Fox, and NBC, he said.

But CBS also axed more series than usual. including all five shows that began last fall on Monday nights. Newcomers Me, Myself & I (above) and 9JKL went down along with Kevin Can Wait, Scorpion, and Superior Donuts. Also canceled are Wisdom of the Crowd and Living Biblically.

The network is returning a quartet of last season’s freshman class -- Young Sheldon, Seal Team, S.W.A.T., and Instinct. The last drama will be back in midseason, CBS said, along with Man With A Plan, Life In Pieces, Elementary, The Amazing Race, and Celebrity Big Brother. Another returnee, Code Black, re-started in late April of this season and is scheduled to run through the summer. 

Unlike last fall, all of CBS’ newcomers have persons of color in the leads. The new Thomas Magnum (below), for instance, will be played by Jay Hernandez, who will be without a full mustache, but with a short-trimmed goatee. Kahl said, not jokingly, that “it was a very vigorous” debate over whether Thomas Magnum 2.0 should replicate Tom Selleck’s trademark mustache. CBS also is removing the comma from the title because research shows that “commas are not your friends,” Kahl said.

In another change that’s in keeping with these times, Magnum’s crime-solving maestro, Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, will now be Juliet Higgins, played by Perdita Weeks. Unlike the original Higgins, played by the late John Hillerman, she’ll also be skilled in the martial arts, Kahl noted, allowing her to join Magnum in some of the weekly action scenes.

Murphy Brown, in contrast, follows the reboot paths taken by ABC’s Roseanne and NBC’s Will & Grace. The surviving cast members, led by Candice Bergen in the title role, are reuniting “during this tumultuous time of fake news” and great divides, Kahl said. Also back for more are charter cast members Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto, and Grant Shaud, with former Cagney & Lacey star Tyne Daly a prominent addition.

CBS passed on a Cagney & Lacey reboot after seeing the pilot, perhaps because it already has five re-dos in Magnum, Murphy and the returning MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0, and S.W.A.T.

Here are the four other additions to CBS’ fall lineup:

Happy Together (comedy, top) -- Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens play a happily married couple whose lives get all shook up when pop star Cooper James (Felix Mallard) unexpectedly moves in with them. The executive producers include real-life pop star Harry Styles, on whose experiences this is partially based.

The Neighborhood (comedy) -- Cedric the Entertainer stars as L.A. denizen Calvin Butler, who’s not thrilled when “the friendliest guy in the Midwest” (specifically a small town in Michigan) and his family move in next door to him. Max Greenfield (New Girl) co-stars as the incoming Dave Johnson.

God Friended Me (drama) -- Brandon Micheal Hall, whose ABC comedy The Mayor was quickly canceled this season, moves on to play “outspoken atheist” Miles Finer, who’s surprised to receive a friend request from God on his Facebook page. (Hmm, sounds like more Russian chicanery.) Anyway, he reluctantly becomes an “agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.” Kahl acknowledged resemblances to the long-running CBS hit Touched By An Angel but says this is going to be more irreverent.

FBI (drama) -- Producer Dick Wolf, who already has four series on NBC (including an entire Wednesday night of Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D.), infiltrates CBS with tales of New York-based federal gumshoes who “tenaciously investigate cases of tremendous magnitude.” Lead agents Omar Adom and Maggie Bell are played by Zeeko Zaki and Missy Peregrym.

Here is CBS’ night-by-night new fall lineup:

The Neighborhood
Happy Together
Magnum P.I.

NCIS: New Orleans

Seal Team
Criminal Minds

The Big Bang Theory
Young Sheldon
Murphy Brown

Hawaii Five-0
Blue Bloods

Crimetime Saturday
48 Hours

60 Minutes
God Friended Me
NCIS: Los Angeles
Madam Secretary

CBS also has announced three new midseason series:

The Code (drama) -- CBS describes this as the “military’s brightest minds” converging to “take on our country’s toughest legal challenges, inside the courtroom and out.” All involved are trained as prosecutors, defense lawyers, and investigators. Anna Wood heads the cast as Major Maya Dobbins.

Fam (comedy) -- Yet another show about idyllic domesticity torn asunder when someone unexpectedly pops up and moves in. Tone Bell and Nina Dobrev envision a “perfect life” together after getting married. But then her “out-of-control,” 16-year-old sister enters the picture. Enough said.

The Red Line (drama) -- Noah Wyle gets another prime-time roost as Daniel Calder, prominent member of one of three Chicago families whose “stories of loss and tragedy intersect in the wake of the mistaken shooting of an African-American doctor by a white cop.”

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