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CBS's New Fall 2013 Shows: First Clips, First Impressions
May 15, 2013  | By David Bianculli

CBS is making its fall 2013 moves from a comfortably tall perch. It’s No. 1 in both overall and demographically desirable viewers, and is reacting accordingly…

Part of its obvious assurance is demonstrated by its cancellation of shows with viewership numbers other networks would covet — CSI: NY and Vegas, which drew more than 10 million viewers each. CBS also canceled first-year dramas Vegas and Made in Jersey, while retaining Elementary.

For fall 2012, CBS unveiled three new dramas and one comedy (Partners, which faded quickly). A year later, CBS is presenting five new shows, not four — but four of the five are sitcoms, so CBS actually is scheduling fewer new hours of programming than in 2012.

Two of the new sitcoms are added to Thursday nights, making that evening start with a two-hour comedy block, as does Mondays (the recipient of the other two new comedies). The new drama, Hostages, is envisioned as a 15-episode event series — after which, at midseason, it will make way for another new show, Intelligence. But that counts, to me, as a midseason entry. Let’s stick to the fall stuff for now.

Three of the four sitcoms come with impressively strong pedigrees: their respective executive producers include Chuck Lorre, Greg Garcia and David E. Kelley.

Kelley, whose TV hits include Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and many others, is behind Crazy Ones, a comedy starring Robin Williams — in his first TV sitcom series since Mork & Mindy – as a quirky advertising genius. Co-stars include Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays Williams’ daughter and agency partner, and who is bound to get almost as much attention as a sitcom star as Williams.

The two of them, together, seem to mix really well. Hamish Linklater, from The New Adventures of Old Christine, is here, too — and a guest spot by Kelly Clarkson, playing herself, playfully. It all adds up to something that looks, at first glance, like a winner.

The other Thursday comedy, The Millers, comes from Greg Garcia, who’s given TV both Raising Hope and My Name Is Earl. His new sitcom has an enticingly unusual premise: a grown man (Will Arnett) reluctantly tells his dad he’s getting a divorce, and the dad responds by divorcing his wife of 43 years – after which the mom moves in with the newly divorced son. If that doesn’t sound like something you’d like to watch, it should, once you learn who’s playing the parents: Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale.

There’s also J.B. Smoove, who always brought such energy to Curb Your Enthusiasm, as one of Arnett’s best friends. And the teaser clip, though brief, answers the three key questions about this new series: Is Margo Martindale good at comedy? Is The Millers funny? And has Greg Garcia done it again?

Yes, yes, and yes. Here’s the teaser clip:

The third highly pedigreed comedy is called Mom, and is the latest from CBS comedy stalwart Chuck Lorre, of both The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men fame (and infamy). It launches on Monday, where both of those hit CBS comedies got their starts. Anna Faris stars as a newly sober single mom — and her own mother is played by Allison Janney of The West Wing, who, like many a dramatic actor this coming season, is shifting gears and going the sitcom route. Co-stars include Nate Corddry and French Stewart, so Lorre obviously is casting this comedy with an eye for a strong ensemble.

The teaser clips aren’t that overwhelming, but the “three generations of women” thing, with Faris’ character frustrated by the acting out of her own teen daughter, holds some promise. And Lorre’s strength, as a show runner, is improving what he starts with — as he did when The Big Bang Theory just got better and better.

Here’s the teaser clip:

The fourth comedy, also premiering on Mondays, is We Are Men, which comes from Rob Greenberg, a writer-producer on How I Met Your Mother (and, before that, Frasier). Chris Smith plays one of four single men who, for various reasons, end up as temporary neighbors in the same apartment complex. The other unlucky-in-love men are played by Monk star Tony Shalhoub (returning to sitcoms, where he first took wing in Wings), Kal Penn (from House, M.D. and the Harold and Kumar movies) and Jerry O’Connell.

If you miss Men of a Certain Age, you still will. We Are Men is a broad comedy — so broad that, at least in the teaser montage, you can see every joke coming. And, if you’re like me, won’t laugh at any of them.

Here’s the clip:

And, I guess, it wouldn’t be a CBS schedule without a new Jerry Bruckheimer drama. Envisioned as a 15-episode drama that will unspool weekly over the fall, in 24 style, Hostages stars United States of Tara chameleon Toni Collette as a surgeon who is scheduled to operate on the President (played by James Naughton). Her family is taken hostage, and she’s ordered by a rogue FBI agent (played by Dylan McDermott of American Horror Story) to kill the President during the operation, or her own loved ones will die.

Based on an Israeli TV show, Hostages is another of these shows expecting you to involve yourself in an intense, ongoing weekly drama. When that works, as in the first season of Homeland, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t, it’s more like The Following.

It’s impossible to tell, from this brief first view, where Hostages will fall on that continuum. But it doesn’t seem doomed, or dumb, from the start, which is something.

Here’s the clip:

Obviously, CBS is embracing strength — both by the depths of the casts and the track records of the producers, but in its scheduling. On Tuesdays, it’s stacking up three of the most popular returning dramas on television: NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and Person of Interest. And while CBS has made some moves, like shifting Hawaii Five-0 to Fridays, most of the network’s schedule signals stability and opportunity, not desperation.

For details on CBS's midseason offerings, including the aforementioned Intelligence, see Ed Bark's Uncle Barky's Bytes. Then, tell us: what’s your opinion of the new shows, based on the teaser clips?

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