CBS: Strength, Stability Are Sexy

“Young” and “sexy” were the catchwords at CBS' upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall on May 20 as the network, known for its older viewers, attempted to put an alluring spin on being the only broadcast network to add viewers season-to-season.

“Who says we're not sexy?” CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves asked rhetorically during opening remarks at the network's presentation. “Only CBS is playing from a position of growth, stability and strength,” he said. “And you know what, winning really is the only sexy thing out there.”

Simon Baker, the youngish and sexy star of The Mentalist, the only bona fide hit of the new season, took the stage to remind advertisers to “stay positive in life and in advertising.” LL Cool J, one of the stars of NCIS: Los Angeles, performed his hit “Mama Said Knock You Out.” It was such a raucous rendition, and LL seemed so happy to be part of the CBS family, that one could almost forget the song is nearly 20 years old.

Despite its new sexy tune, CBS is doing little to tinker with its brand next season. The network will stick with a tried-and-true formula of broad-appeal dramas and one new comedy, Accidentally On Purpose, which will get a protective Monday night slot between How I Met Your Mother at 8 p.m. and Two and a Half Men at 9 p.m. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler described Accidentally On Purpose star Jenna Elfman, who plays a film critic who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a younger man, as “charming and adorable.” And she pointed out that the network “successfully built a second night of comedy” on Wednesday.

“At a time when we could all use a laugh, CBS delivered,” Tassler said as the giant screen above her head informed the audience that the C in CBS “also stands for comedy.”

On Tuesday, NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles will comprise a crime block from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., providing a launch pad for new drama The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as the wife of a disgraced politician who goes back to work as a lawyer after her husband lands in jail. The drama, which echoes several recent scandals including the downfall of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, earned praise from advertisers and critics. “It's scandalously good,” Tassler said.

Three Rivers, about a team of Pittsburgh doctors who perform organ transplants, will have some heavy lifting to do on Sunday at 9 p.m. against ABC's Desperate Housewives. But Tassler professed confidence in the show's “young ensemble cast” led by Moonlight heartthrob Alex O'Loughlin.

The most voluble audience response came during a lengthy cutdown of midseason unscripted entry Undercover Boss, which depicts a president slumming it with the rank and file in his own company. The British import comes with a big emotional payoff and offers a positive characterization of a corporate president at a time when the headlines have been dominated by the greed and incompetence of Wall Street CEOs.

The clip featured Larry O'Donnell, president and COO of Waste Management. After cleaning portable toilets and sorting through trash, he comes to appreciate his employees and gives them all raises. And at 50ish and balding, O'Donnell is neither young nor sexy.