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'The Big Bang Theory' on Thursdays: CBS's Calculated Gamble

by Joel Keller, posted May 19th 2010 3:03PM
Jim Parsons in 'The Big Bang Theory' - 'The Spaghetti Catalyst'Who knew that, of all the broadcast networks, CBS would be the one making the most news during upfronts week? Not only did the Eye Net cancel a slew of shows, but it also decided to take one of their highest-rated comedies, 'The Big Bang Theory,' and use it to start a comedy block on Thursdays.

Think about that for a second: When was the last time CBS had comedies on Thursdays? Take a random tour through the various primetime schedules through the years, and you'll find out that it has happened rarely, if ever. But CBS knows what it has in 'Big Bang,' which is a strong show with an ardent following.

But it also knows what it doesn't have: a lot of strong competition, especially when it comes to comedy. Which is why this is a gamble that just might work.

Moving a hit show to a new night in an attempt to build a new programming block is a move that's as old as television. Sometimes it works -- NBC briefly built a second comedy beachhead after moving 'Frasier' from Thursdays to Tuesdays -- and sometimes it doesn't -- like anytime CBS has tried moving one of their Monday comedy hits to Wednesdays in recent years.

In this case, CBS isn't really taking on an established hit at 8PM on Thursdays. With 'Survivor' moving to Wednesdays, 'Bones' is the biggest show in that timeslot, and may attract a lot of the same geek audience that likes 'Big Bang.' But, remember, this season 'Big Bang' surpassed its lead-in, 'Two and a Half Men,' to become the number one comedy in the adult demo, so its audience is much more broad-based than just sci fi and comics fans.

Related: 'Big Bang' Rivas Feel Timeslot Pain

But who CBS is really gunning for with this move is NBC. The network knows that, while the Peacock's slate of Thursday comedies are critically-acclaimed, the shows tend to get weak ratings, a fact that's especially true of the 8PM block of 'Community' and 'Parks and Recreation.' 'Parks and Rec' isn't even coming back until midseason; '30 Rock,' which has a slightly larger following but isn't a ratings powerhouse, will slide into 'Parks and Rec's' 8:30PM slot.

So, with a wounded opponent in NBC, a new series on ABC, 'Bones' on Fox, and a new, buzzworthy show to push in William Shatner's '!*#$@ My Dad Says,' this move makes a heck of a lot more sense when you look at the big picture.

"We're not in the charity business," scheduling chief Kelly Kahl told James Hibberd of The Live Feed. "The performance of [NBC's] comedies is not something that deterred us. People like those shows, but they're not setting the world on fire ratings wise."

If you're a fan of both 'Big Bang' and 'Community,' is this going to make your viewing life tougher? Maybe. There's a lot of audience overlap between the two shows, but it's also a very DVR/on demand/online-savvy group. I don't tend to watch either show in real time; there's been many a time when I've DVRed one or the other. Heck, I watched the entire first third of 'Community's' season on Hulu. Neither show has that "event" feel that compels viewers to watch it when it airs.

So, realistically, there's room for both to exist on the schedule. If the Thursday status quo holds -- 'Big Bang' gets as many viewers as 'Survivor' did and 'Community' stays the same -- both CBS and NBC will likely be satisfied.

And if 'Big Bang' and '!*#$@ My Dad Says' get hammered? 'Big Bang' goes back to Mondays and Shatner goes back to his 5,000 other jobs. Seems like a low-risk move to me.

[Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.]

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wal5we

i've never watched the show but plan to just to see how good it is. why doesn't CBS poll viewers to get their opinion BEFORE switching things around? you know the saying; "if it ain't broke, DON'T fix it!"

June 05 2010 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon

This is just a bit of subject, but as a whole...when you look at the TV line up for CBS,NBC,FOX & ABC for all 7 days.......This is the WORST TV I have seen in my life.
Yes, there are good shows...but for many years thru the up's and downs, you could at least find 1 or 2 shows a night, or at least most of the nights. Now, there are 3 or 4 nights that we do not watch ANYthing on those networks, and the night s we do...it is for a particular show, then we move on.
Cable TV has taken over. I do not mean because they have a million stations, but because I can pick 4 stations with commercials that I would pick if we had to chose.
I think it is time for the netwoks to get there act together or just throw in the towel !!!
PS. I seen some realy BAD shows the past few weeks, and had NO IDEA who would put them on TV >>> and now I see they got the boot !!!

May 20 2010 at 8:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin

What you watch does not matter one iota if you are not a Nielsen family. I don't like this tired,out-dated ratings system either but it just doesn't matter.

May 20 2010 at 4:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zanedy

BBT is one of the BEST SHOWS on TV. I only found out about it when a friend gave me the first 2 seasons on DVD, and then became hooked! CBS should take the $2million per episode they are paying that HACK Sheen, and put it to better use developing decent shows! Not trying to play chess instead.

May 20 2010 at 2:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phyllis Sutherland

When it cones to Monday on CBS I never watch it anyway. I used to watch CSI:Miami until Horatio findally drove me away. Now I warch Castle. Monday comedies are such a drag they have forced me to watch DWTS. Bones is the show I try never to miss on Thursday CBS has ruined CSI so I no longer watch it. The Medium has grown on me. On Tuesday I used to stick with CBS for 3 hrs but unlike the majority of people I hear from I can not stand The (not so)Good Wife. Man do I miss Without A Trace. The Networks have surrendered Saturday and Sunday nights to the cable networks and sports.

May 20 2010 at 1:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jam

i really think the networks should try and monitor all the websites that stream the shows they produce not just the website that pay to do but the ones that is underground like i watch alot of tv on the web now because now i don't have to miss one because its on at the same time as another show they should monitor the hits these sites have and maybe they will see its a really growing feild and most of the underground site are commerical free but they do have a few ads they should check out zshare

May 20 2010 at 1:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
paul smith

love the big bang, hate 2 and a half fart joke, dvr whatever I watch, fastforward through the commercials... and watch zero nbc... probably a typical viewer...

May 20 2010 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jocko

Moving BBT from Mondays is stupid. Now that 24 is ending for good, CBS could rule Mondays, except in Fall when Monday Night Football kills almost everything else. As for William Shattner, nothing he stars in is worth watching. He's the male counterpart of "The New Christine"series,,another GIANT FLOP.

May 19 2010 at 11:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda

I hate what CBS is doing. I hate that they have cancelled Ghost Whisper and Numbers and left Medium. I hate that they're moving Big Bang to Thursday nights. Good thing for DVR's.

May 19 2010 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ann

I would say it is too bad they are moving BBT to thursday because though I really like it I love Bones but then there are so few episodes per season they show everything 2 or 3 times a year I stil will be able to see both Bones the first time around BBT the second

May 19 2010 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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