After the September flurry of highly hyped series and season premieres, the TV schedule has started to settle. Now, six weeks later, we can start taking a purer look at the ratings evidence for patterns and signs for what's working and what most definitely is not. All this week we're going to be looking at a different broadcast network each day to find out how they're faring in the 2011–12 season. Yesterday we scrutinized the struggling NBC, and today we're studying the steady-handed CBS. Have they suffered any side effects from their Kutcher transplant? How is J.J. Abrams working out for them with Person of Interest? Let's stare this network deep in the Eye and find out.
What's working: Sure, Two and a Half Men has drifted down each week since its debut, but it hasn't collapsed. That's victory for CBS. Also, the network's veteran comedies are showing lots of strength: How I Met Your Mother is off to a great start, while Mike & Molly and The Big Bang Theory have been doing fine. Shifting The Good Wife to Sundays didn't turn it into a hit, but the show didn't shatter in the move from Tuesday; likewise, while CSI's best days are behind it, it's competitive Wednesdays at 10 p.m. In terms of newcomers, 2 Broke Girls may not be a critical fave, but it's building on its HIMYM lead-in and has proven a good fit on Mondays. Unforgettable is also proving to be a decent, if unexciting, Tuesday night addition and might yet build an audience as the season rolls on.
What's not: How to Be a Gentleman made $#*! My Dad Says smell like roses; it's dead. Person of Interest was hurt by that poor lead-in, as well as high expectations set by CBS, which last May declared the show to be its highest-testing pilot in, like, forever. And yet despite a summer of massive promotion and amazing auspices (It's from J.J. Abrams's Bad Robot), the show isn't doing better than the fading CSI did last fall in terms of attracting viewers under 50. Still: It averages around 12 million viewers each week, and in a season where few new dramas have popped, its performance is decidedly ... not awful. This might also apply to Friday's A Gifted Man, which brings in over 7 million viewers every week (more than most NBC comedies) but skews older than even other CBS shows on the same night.
What's next: CBS is a network that values incremental change, and nothing about its performance this fall indicates it's going to suddenly shake things up come mid-season. It could experiment with comedy, possibly testing out the notion of expanding its Thursday laugh lineup into the 9 p.m. hour. New police drama The 2-2 (whose title will hopefully be changed to something that sounds less like a Chuck Woolery throw to commercial) is on the bench and seems a potential Friday player. There's also a new half-hour from Rob Schneider, but we don't want to ponder life on this planet when that show's on. A wild card for CBS later this season will be reality: In addition to the eventual return of Undercover Boss, the network could have some unscripted concepts secretly in the works. It had better: One of CBS's few weak spots is the lack of a big, young reality hit.