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CBS 2019-2020 Upfront Preview

With Les Moonves gone, will we see a new CBS at this year's upfront?
  • Simone Missick stars in the CBS fall courthouse drama All Rise
    Simone Missick stars in the CBS fall courthouse drama All Rise

    Our resident script reader Jean-Maxime Renault has read the pilot scripts for almost all of this year's series pickups heading into upfront week. For his detailed thoughts on all of the year's contenders, be sure to check out his pilot script reviews

    The past year has been a difficult one for CBS with the spectacular demise of longtime CEO Les Moonves exposing what would appear to have been a culture of male toxicity at the network. The network's new chief creative officer David Nevins (coming from Showtime) and entertainment president Kelly Kahl seem to have made an effort  to be more inclusive and less male-centered, having picked up a slew of female-fueled shows. (At the same time, they renewed Bull for a fourth season, despite multiple allegations its star, Michael Weatherly.)  While their 2019-2020 schedule will still be dominated by procedurals, they're also betting on some big names in hopes of drawing larger audiences to their new entries. Which shows have been ordered? Which projects didn't make the cut? Did they make the right decisions? The answers below:


    What they've ordered…

    EVIL (Pilot script review)
    Evil is not your typical CBS show, nor is it something you find on the other broadcast networks these days. It could be summarized as The X-Files meets MINDHUNTER. Only the Michelle and Robert King, creators of The Good Wife and The Good Fight, could elevate a traditional concept in the supernatural arena to the next level. It's a bit of a risk, but it's one CBS can afford in an otherwise very conservative environment.

    How did Dick Wolf convince CBS to order a spin-off of a show that's barely an OK performer? That much is a mystery, but from the moment they ordered the pilot, a series order was a sure thing, and so here we are. FBI: Most Wanted  seems unlikely to be hit, but if OK is good enough for the mothership, presumably the same is true of the spin-off.

    ALL RISE (Pilot script review)
    All Rise is a diverse and colorful legal drama that could be described as a non-soapy, non-twisted version of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder. It manages to stay efficient and fun while being more conventional. That's probably how every new CBS show should look and feel. With a cast of mostly fresh faces, it may prove difficult to get viewers to take it for a test run but kudos to the network for ordering it. Now, treat it fearly please!

    TOMMY (Pilot script review)
    CBS is in need of more strong female-driven programming apart from Madam Secretary, so Tommy could become an important asset for them, even if it's bound to skew old. With Edie Falco playing the complex, titular character, they have at least one strong argument for convincing viewers to give it a chance, but it's earmarked for midseason to accommodate Falco’s schedule so don't get your hopes up.


    What they've rejected…

    THE REPUBLIC OF SARAH (Pilot script review)
    The Republic of Sarah was one of the best scripts of this pilot season, featuring a lot of strong women characters, which is particularly notable for CBS. The Sarah-Drew starrer was a serialized relationship drama, deeply rooted in today’s America. Chances for this one to see the light of day were slim, but ordering it, even for summer, could have made a difference. A missed opportunity for CBS.

    UNDER THE BRIDGE (Pilot script review)
    CBS will go another year without a medical drama on the air. Under The Bridge was a strong and clever medical offering for our times. Ordering it to series would have also shown how much the network was willing to change since it tackled the subject of harrasment at work and toxic masculinity. Too soon?


    Still pending
    SURVEILLANCE (Pilot script review)
    Starring Sophia Bush, Surveillance is a timely and captivating spy thriller with a hint of soap, and it has the potential to do for CBS what The Good Wife and Person Of Interest have done in seasons past. It's reportedly still under consideration for a possible summer run.


    What they've ordered…

    After an unconvicing trip to Netflix with pot comedy Disjointed and critical darling The Kominsky Method, hit-maker Chuck Lorre is back at CBS. Like Lorre's Dharma & Greg and Mike & Molly, Bob <3 Abishola is a romantic comedy that becomes a family comedy. CBS had far better options, but clearly they want to stay in business with Lorre, especially now The Big Bang Theory is gone, making a series order all but a formality.

    A funny and comfy multicam starring Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle star Patricia Heaton, ordering Carol's Second Act to series had to have been an easy decision for CBS. This could well be the breakout comedy of next year.

    Pauley Perrette of NCIS fame is the star of this comedy from the Jane The Virgin team and it's her first project since leaving her long-running show. That alone is likely to be a draw for CBS viewers. The pilot script is funny, if a bit generic at times. 

    Originallysingle-camera before being converted to the multi-camera format and then back to single-cam, The Unicorn will mark CBS’ first single-camera comedy series since Young Sheldon. The format tends not to work for them but the Big Bang Theory spin-off managed to break the cycle. The writing in The Unicorn is sharper than you might expect, but it's not that tonally different from CBS's other shows. Plus, Walton Goggins (JustifiedSons of AnarchyVice Principals) stars! 


    What they've rejected…

    CBS loves to pick-up romantic comedy pilots in the vein of How I Met Your Mother and not give them the precious series greenlight in the end. Coming from One Day at a Time executive producer Mike Royce, Super Simple Love Story was this year's unlucky attempt.

    After two drama flops and a short stint on Suits, Katherine Heigl tried her hand at the multicam comedy format with Our House but failed to win a series pick up. The pilot script was good -- not incredibly original, but it did have heart. 


    We'll have complete coverage of CBS's upfront presentation on Wednesday May 15th. In the meantime, check out our CBS 2019-2020 fantasy schedule and join us in the forums to share your opinion!

    Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom