Cable-pocalypse: CBS

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It probably is an initial shock when looking at the OA Channel Rankings to see the bottom three rounded out by three of the major basic cable networks.  Let's be clear: they have much bigger shoes to fill.  If we looked based on an average programming rating for 24/7, stations like USA and TNT would move even higher in the rankings as they are able to cherry pick great dramas like House or Bones into their regular lineup.  Also remember that these rankings are composites of both my preferences and Jake's, and I'm fairly certain that helped bring CBS down a notch, but whatever.  Anyway, let's take a quick gander through the highs and lows of America's (supposedly) most-watched network.

Depending entirely on personal preference, CBS's comedy flagship is either How I Met Your Mother or The Big Bang Theory.  Personally, it's the latter, as I find all of the Big Bang characters to be great, while How I Met Your Mother relies a bit too heavily on Neil Patrick Harris's Barney Stinson. I tried 2 Broke Girls last year, but it's a collection of one-liners that's mashed together for 22 minutes every Monday and that's about it.  Whitney Cummings is a creator, and her humor is stamped all over this, but it's executed far more poorly than her own show (Whitney, NBC), and that's saying something.  Mike & Molly is evidence that CBS is far and away more willing to aim outside traditional success paradigms, as this is essentially a plus-sized comedy, and although I've only seen one episode, it was enjoyable.  Rules of Engagement has a few funny moments, but I think it's kept afloat by two-way lead-in viewers, and Two and A Half Men hasn't been the same since Charlie Sheen left (duh) (#notwinning).  Partners, the lone comedy premiere on CBS for this fall has made my short list of new shows, but only out of allegiance to David Krumholz, who was great as Charlie Eppes on Numb3rs.

I gave Blue Bloods a little more than two seasons of my attention, and while it does reach an impressively wide demographic (thanks to it starring both Donnie Wahlberg and Tom Selleck), it was falsely advertised as a conspiracy drama in its inception but instead is overly heavy handed with moralizing subplots and Sunday dinners.  I am now, however, planted firmly in the camp of "Tom Brady left Bridget Moynahan for Gisele?  What a dumbass."  Bridget, if you ever read this, call me.  (Also Tom, if you ever read this, you can call me too.  We can share hairstyle tips and talk about how awesome we are, and maybe even have a catch.)
With David Caruso and CSI:Miami getting the axe that leaves just the original and CSI:NY.  Also returning is the NCIS pairing (original and :Los Angeles), which, like the CSI pairing, are very watchable procedurals but hardly the best shows on the network, let alone TV. The last two seasons CBS has turned away from procedurals, but remains steadfast with the darkest show on network TV, Criminal Minds.  I'm intrigued by this show, and have enjoyed the episodes I've seen enough to consider catching up and adding it to my watch list, even though I think FBI profiling is bullcrap.
Among the other strong dramatic standouts are The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O, The Mentalist, and my personal favorite new show from last year, Person of Interest.  Of the three new dramas the network is offering up this fall, I have no desire to see Made In Jersey, but have already programmed Elementary and Vegas into my TiVo.  Sherlock Holmes and Batman are my two favorite characters of all time, so Elementary is a shoe-in for my viewership and I will probably be unable to be rational about the show until well after the first season is over.  As for Vegas, it is a monumental moment, as I have reneged on my vow to never willingly watch anything with Dennis Quaid in it ever again.  If he lets me down for the 385th consecutive time (The Day After Tomorrow counted for at least 250) I will not be responsible for the ensuing violence.

CBS launched all of this reality garbage with Survivor over a decade ago, and I still haven't watched an episode (although I do hope Jeff Kent gets bit by a snake or something, that asshole).  Big Brother and The Amazing Race have very loyal followings, and that's important because neither will pull down the numbers of an American Idol.  At least CBS has pretty much avoided singing talent competitions, although they have a show called 3, that looks to be a poor adaptation of the dating reality shows.  As for "scripted" reality TV, there's the animal-friendly Dogs in the City, as well as the class conflict based weekly restore-your-faith-in-humanity tearjerker Undercover Boss.

CBS has anchored its talk show timeslots with David Letterman since I was born, and while I understand the merit and quality of his show, I'm beginning to truly feel that these preferences are very much generational (I personally am an unwavering Jimmy Kimmel apologist).  The Late Late Show, once manned by top five "Where is he now?" personality Craig Kilborn is now hosted by Craig Ferguson (Mr. Wick of The Drew Carey Show fame).  Ferguson is funny, but he is rarely appointment television and, in fact, might just be insane.

When CBS cut their contract with Gus Johnson, I was ready to riot, but then he got the FOX job.  CBS's coverage of the NFL is much better than their competitors, even if their eternally grainy standard definition signal is so burned into my corneas that I can't watch the games in HD without hallucinating static and color spots.  Their newly combined promotion (with TNT, TBS, and TruTV) and coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament solidifies the network's place atop the sports coverage ratings in my eyes, as they have done a masterful job providing viewers with a chance to witness every game – if you have enough TVs – of the most exciting four day's in sports: the tournament's opening weekend.  The largest blemish on their resume is the fact that my cable provider (Time Warner Cocksucker Cable Company) wants to charge me $5.95 to receive the satellite station CBS Sports in an upgraded sports tier.

While some Soaps are dying (All My Children), CBS is still holding strong with both The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, even though the OnDemand features and strong scripted shows on cable channels are simultaneously shrinking and obliterating the appointment television demographic.  CBS still provides a number of game shows that were a major portion of my kindergarten-5th grade viewing experience, and although I don't watch regularly, every now and then I'll be surfing through the channels and stop on The Price is Right or Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune.

Again (and forever) I don't watch the news, but CBS's specialized news programming – 60 Minutes and 48 Hours – make up two-thirds of the staples from my youth (the other being ABC's 20/20).

Overall CBS does the best to reach the largest demographic of the four major networks, varying their types of programming and avoiding niche with their comedies and their dramas.  Why, then, you ask, is CBS currently rated at 9 on the Opportunity Assassins' Cable-pocalypse rating chart?  Part of it is precisely that the station reaches the largest demographic of the four major networks.  When that is the case, I'm far less likely to ever start watching certain shows (The David Letterman Show) and more likely to end my relationship with others (Blue Bloods).  In the months to come, with a more in depth look at each station's programming, I predict and upward trend for the eye.  To CBS's credit, their schedule features more truly scripted primetime television than the other three majors, and that fact will be even more beneficial for the network if their fall premieres are as strong as they look to be.  But only time, and Dennis Quaid, can truly tell.

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