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Familiar faces in CBS's fall schedule

Jason Alexander, John Goodman to star in new series
/ Source: The Associated Press

CBS has crafted a traditionalist’s schedule for the fall, bringing in Jason Alexander, Rob Lowe and John Goodman to anchor new series and setting up a grudge match between two crime franchises.

The nation’s most popular network unveiled three new dramas and two new comedies in a schedule presented to advertisers Wednesday.

During a week that networks have talked about change, with more reality and limited-run series, CBS preached stability. Its five new series are all scripted and feature many recognizable stars.

Alexander will try to break the “Seinfeld curse” that has doomed new series featuring himself, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the last few years. In “Listen Up,” he’ll play a character based on Washington Post sportswriter Tony Kornheiser.

CBS also gave him a comfortable time slot among its hit Monday comedies.

“This is a very commercial vehicle for him,” said CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves.

Lowe, who played a lawyer last year in NBC’s short-lived “The Lyon’s Den,” will be a doctor at a Las Vegas casino in “Dr. Vegas.”

“It’s a traditional medical show during the day, and during the night he sleeps with chorus girls and gambles,” Moonves said. “What could go wrong with that?”

In “Center of the Universe,” Goodman plays a security company owner with Ed Asner portraying his father, Olympia Dukakis his mother and Jean Smart his wife.

The spinoff “CSI: NY” which was set up in a highly rated episode of “CSI: Miami” on Monday, will compete against NBC’s franchise show “Law & Order” in the same Wednesday time slot. Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes are the new “CSI” stars.

With Jerry Orbach’s character, Detective Lennie Briscoe, retiring from the force on Wednesday’s “Law & Order” season finale, CBS senses vulnerability in the popular NBC drama.

CBS is canceling the dramas “Hack,” “The District” and “The Guardian.” The comedy “Yes, Dear” is off the schedule, but CBS has ordered 13 episodes for a midseason replacement.

The network also said it will make a midseason comedy starring Jenna Elfman, made by the creator of “Dharma & Greg.”

CBS also becomes the latest network to essentially punt on Saturday nights, the least-watched night of the week on broadcast television. Instead of three costly dramas, it will go a less expensive route with the newsmagazine “48 Hours Mysteries,” the reality show “The Amazing Race” and “CSI” reruns.

“It’s like dumb to lose Saturday night,” Moonves said. “We kept saying, ‘We’re the only ones putting on original programming.’ Obviously, America didn’t respond the way we wanted them to.”

With “60 Minutes” founder Don Hewitt stepping down, CBS is stripping the “II” from the Wednesday spinoff “60 Minutes II.”

The fifth new series will be “Clubhouse,” a feel-good drama about a 16-year-old boy who becomes a batboy for the mythical New York Empires.

CBS also stepped up its rivalry with NBC on the eve of the springtime buying frenzy known as the upfront, when advertisers are expected to spend some $9 billion on commercials for next season. Although CBS has the most viewers, NBC earns more ad revenue because it has more of the younger fans that advertisers prefer.

Moonves said CBS, more than NBC, has become the network of quality programming.

NBC has “gone from ‘Seinfeld’ to ‘Fear Factor,’ he said.

Before Wednesday’s sales presentation to ad buyers, CBS executives met to tone down the references they planned to make to “Friends” departing NBC’s schedule.