Viva Laughlin, a drama that features gamblers belting out pop tunes, is just one example of how CBS wants to draw outside the chalk lines of a schedule already stocked with crime procedurals, albeit shows comprising the industry's most stable lineup. Other edgy dramas come in the form of Cane, a Scarface-esque epic starring Jimmy Smits, and Moonlight, a Joel Silver production featuring a lovelorn vampire detective.
"Our strong, solid schedule allows us to push the envelope next fall," CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves said at the opening of the network's upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall.
The entire presentation was a relatively slim 75 minutes, with none of the elaborately pretaped skits Madison Avenue has come to expect from CBS.
Some comic relief came from customized video snippets featuring the melodramatic line readings of CSI: Miami star David Caruso. He set up scheduling announcements with howlers like, "Monday's so bright you gotta wear shades," before walking out onstage, joining CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler.
Five new series -- four dramas and one comedy -- will join CBS' schedule in the fall, with at least two more slated for midseason.
Like NBC, CBS opted not to open a second comedy night, adding its sole new half-hour series, The Big Bang Theory, to the network's established comedy block at 8:30 p.m. Monday, sandwiched between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. However, the network is still considering single-camera pilots I'm in Hell and The Captain for midseason.
The most-talked-about CBS program next season might come on the unscripted side: Kid Nation, a new franchise in which 40 children spend 40 days without their parents trying to organize their own society in an abandoned ghost town. The series is being slotted in the 8 p.m. Wednesday slot left open by Jericho, a first-year drama CBS has opted not to bring back.
An even more provocative series is being held over for midseason: Swingtown, a 1970s-era drama originally intended for cable that will depict swinging couples.