This week we’re going to delve into CBS’ comedy pilots. It’s the network I watched most often in March. The only thing I saw on the channel happened to be college basketball, but a ratings point is still a ratings point. Go Wisconsin!
CBS is at a bit of a crossroads. Their programming, like their viewership, is aging. And like most older things, will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. Flagship comedy The Big Bang Theory is still a ratings juggernaut, but three of their programs have been put out to pasture. RIP Two and Half Men (mercifully ended), The Millers (swiftly pulled from air) and The McCarthys (an Irish goodbye).
The ones that do remain — namely 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly and Mom — are barely scraping by. Freshman comedy The Odd Couple is doing OK, but that might that be more a case of CBS viewers being too lazy (or incapacitated) to change the channel after Big Bang ends.
So this pilot season at CBS is an inflection point. If you recall, last year saw the executives cautiously pick up only two comedy series (The McCarthys & The Odd Couple), one of which was held until midseason. But, combined with the three aforementioned departures, we’re looking at possibly 3-4 slots for new blood. Will they expand out from multi-cam? Can they develop another Chuck Lorre-esque producer? Do they care about younger viewers? Let’s go through the pilots find out, but first, let me take a moment to explain how every CBS sitcom works:
Each CBS comedy is built around a central relationship. One half of the relationship is the Agitator. This is the starring role of the show, the character that the success of the show depends on. This character comes into a scene and requires others to respond. Think Charlie Harper (Two and a Half Men), Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) or Max Black (Two 2 Broke Girls).
The other half of the relationship is the Audience Surrogate. This is a grounded but flawed character who the viewer at home can relate to. But who is always facing problems caused by the Agitator. Examples would be Alan Harper (Two and a Half Men), Leonard Hofstadter (Big Bang Theory) and Christy Plunkett (Mom).
CBS then rounds out their cast with some ace Supporting Characters, generally with one very specific quirk, who react to the central relationship and occasionally become embroiled in it. They then stir these ingredients together — the Agitator, the Audience Surrogate, the Supporting Characters — and basically repeat the pilot again and again until they reach syndication heaven. This is comfort food on your TV.
So, with that in mind, let’s go through the pilots…
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CHECK OUT THE ENTIRE RUNWAY PILOT COVERAGE HERE
Andrew Woodberry | Contributor