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CBS Renews 18 Series -- ‘Big Bang Theory,’ ‘NCIS,’ ‘Millers’ Make the Cut; What’s on the Bubble?

By Brett Gold - Mar 14, 2014 at 9:46AM

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CBS joined Fox and The CW this week by giving early renewals to its top series, but the ones that didn't get the thumbs up speak volumes for the company's strategy.

Following The CW and Fox making a few early renewals over the last few weeks, CBS ( VIAC -1.75% ) becomes the latest of the big broadcasters to hand out good news. But while 18 shows were given the green light for another run, a handful still remain on the wrong side of the bubble, including one glaring omission.

The renewed

(Credit: CBS)

Already the number one broadcaster, space on the network's roster has been at a premium for some time. And with the NFL coming to primetime in the fall, all eyes were already on CBS before the network's reveal.

First, the renewals. CBS is bringing back a number of drama staples including NCIS, NCIS: Los AngelesElementary, Person of Interest, Hawaii Five-0, The Good Wife, Criminal Minds, and CSI.  

All of those were expected, but the one that will get the most attention is The Good Wife, which some had suggested might be "tentative" to come back because it doesn't have the same ratings it used to. What's often forgotten is there's more to a show's success than ratings, and that series is proving that this season as it's been creatively firing on all cylinders.

Meanwhile on the comedy side, rookie hits Mom and The Millers join established shows 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, and Mike & Molly on the safe list, as well as The Big Bang Theory, which earned a rare three-season pickup earlier in the week. The decisions also ensure comedy guru Chuck Lorre will have four series on the network for a second year in a row, although Men's renewal is rumored to be for a 13-episode order that would bring the show to a close.

Reality hallmarks The Amazing Race, Survivor, and Undercover Boss were also picked up for new runs, as were the network's two big news programs, 60 Minutes and 48 Hours.

The bubble


So what didn't get the thumbs up?

Two series stick out the most. First is Robin Williams' The Crazy Ones. The comedy, despite having the A-list actor attached, never took off the way it was expected, and the fact that it's the lone single-camera comedy on CBS' Thursday night of laughs puts it at a disadvantage. It will also end its freshman run earlier than its contemporaries, which is never a good sign.

The show that will get the most ink is The Mentalist, which rebooted itself back in December as a way to extend its lifespan. The show ended its long-running "Red John" storyline and rejiggered its cast. Many deemed the relaunch a success, but the show has now passed the 100-episode mark and been sold in syndication, so the network has less of a reason to keep it around.

Traditionally around the fourth and fifth seasons, the production costs lessen for the studio and increase for the network. As a result, Warner Brothers, which also owns the show, will fight to keep it alive as they now stand to make more money off the property both domestically and internationally than CBS does, which means it could be a tough hill to climb. This is also the first year the show hasn't been on the early renewal list. Even if it makes the cut this year, it looks to be nearing the end of its (very impressive) run.

All of the other bubble shows are midseason replacements such as Intelligence (which has been trending up) and the yet-to-debut Friends With Better Lives and Bad Teacher. Some argue that Hostages is still in play, but the less said about that misfire the better. Also series star Dylan McDermott has attached himself to a new CBS pilot, so if the show did return, it would likely be with a new cast and concept, similar to how American Horror Story changes every year. The odds of that happening are slim.

The wild cards

(Credit: CBS)

Speaking of Lives and Teacher, the success of those shows now doesn't make much of a difference for returning shows, outside of Crazy, but will affect future ones. If both shows are hits, CBS will likely take fewer comedy pilots to series this fall. If they misfire, look for the network to load up.

Lives, which follows six friends navigating love and life, has been compared to NBC's Friends and with good reason. The ensemble -- featuring James Van Der Beek, Brooklyn Decker, and Kevin Connolly -- has solid early buzz and could be a sleeper hit. The network has shown faith in it by letting it kick off Monday night, a gutsy move for any rookie.

Bad Teacher, an adaptation of the 2011 movie, will move into Crazy's Thursday night slot with Ari Graynor (Fringe) in the Cameron Diaz role. Sara Gilbert, Ryan Hansen, David Alan Grier, and Kristin Davis will co-star. This has been simmering on the network's stove for a while. Because of its timeslot neighbors, it should get a decent sampling regardless of the strong push the network will likely give it.

The overall message is -- if you have a pilot in contention for CBS this fall, your road to air just got a lot tougher. The network is largely locked down.

With its new launches, its expanded summer schedule of originals, and of course the debut of the NFL in the fall, CBS should dominate the news much like it will probably continue to dominate in the ratings.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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