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Upfront Reaction: CBS

Oh, to be fat and happy. To be the number one network. To be Les Moonves and CBS.

CBS's fall schedule, in contrast with ABC's massive reworking (announced yesterday), is a remarkably conservative affair. Why not be conservative when you're riding high?

On Monday, the Raymond-generated sitcom block stays alive, now anchored by the unkillable Two and a Half Men and new-season sensation How I Met Your Mother. Also on the night, the Seinfeld curse is ever-so-slightly broken by the return of The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Hey, I've just realized something -- CBS has cornered the market on sitcoms that I find acceptably amusing and yet so inessential that I don't bother watching. I felt that way about Raymond after a couple of years, and about King of Queens. Likewise, I find Mother and Old Christine to be fairly amusing, but utterly not worth my time.

In any event, there's a new sitcom on the night, and it's The Class, a sitcom from two Must-See TV alums about a group of 20-somethings who went to third grade together. Sounds like there could be some interesting risks in the premise, and Jason Ritter so impressed me in Joan of Arcadia that I'd give him the benefit of the doubt here. But my guess? It'll be yet another funny but dispensable CBS sitcom.

The night ends with the hammy overacting of Horatio Caine -- I mean, David Caruso. He is a William Shatner for our times. (What, the original Shatner's still around? And won an Emmy?)

CBS' new Testosterone Tuesdays kick off with NCIS, followed by The Unit. Then comes a new series that, surprisingly, does not extoll the virtues of military men. In Smith, it's Ray Liotta and a cast of criminals who plot heists! Given the amazing success of Heist and Thief (hint: they aren't coming back), you've got to wonder how Smith will do. Even on CBS.

Wednesday brings more drama to CBS, with Jericho joining the Pantinkin bloodbath Criminal Minds and CSI: NY. The concept for Jericho sounds a bit like something that came out of one of those endless what-Lost-really-means bull sessions: residents of a small Kansas town see a nuclear mushroom cloud on the horizon and don't know whether it's the end of the world as they know it, and if they do or do not feel fine. Upside: A Rod Serling-level premise if done right. Downside: Rod Serling has been dead for 30 years.

CBS' Thursday is still led by Survivor (which is definitely showing its age -- here's hoping the show's producers throw in some curveballs this time!) and the show that everyone inexplicably watches, CSI. Newly set in the post-CSI slot is the new Shark. It's a legal drama starring James Woods and Seven of Nine. Who will make the first joke about Shark jumping itself? I guess that would be me.

There are no changes for CBS on Friday or Saturday nights, with inane drama Ghost Whisperer, Close to Home, and Numb3rs (yet another fine CBS show I can't be bothered to watch) holding down Friday and various detritus and 48 Hours keeping Saturday from blowing away.

Finally, Sunday -- or as we will soon come to call it, the Nipsey Russell line-up. Y'see, after 60 Minutes, here's what you've got. Amazing Race. Cold Case. And Without a Trace. Any more rhyming, Les Moonves couldn't face!


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