Although CBS was focused on announcing its new fall primetime schedule Wednesday, CBS chairman Leslie Moonves couldn’t resist remarking on the network’s “phenomenal” late-night narrative. After a slow start, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” is currently No. 1 in late-night and dominating the cultural conversation.
“Stephen is killing it, night after night, week after week. Quite a change from a year ago when a number of you were writing him off,” Moonves told reporters at a news conference in New York. “I appreciate a lot of you are writing him back in recently, talking about how well he’s done.”
Of course, one big reason is the election of President Donald Trump, whom Colbert delights in eviscerating every night on TV. It’s no secret that the chaotic news cycle has boosted late-night hosts, particularly those who get political. One reporter pointedly asked Moonves if he thought Trump was good for CBS — a reference to Moonves’ famous February 2016 quote about Trump’s candidacy: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Now, Moonves said his comment was a “stupid statement” that he thought would be taken as a joke. “Except journalists did not take it as a joke,” he said Still, Moonves added, the constant stream of news means people are watching a lot more TV. “Late-night is doing extremely well because there’s a lot of interesting material,” he said.
Network executives also basked in CBS’ ratings power — No. 1 in overall viewers for 14 out of the last 15 seasons — and introduced six new fall series. “9JKL” gets the coveted post-“Big Bang Theory” spot on Mondays; the sitcom stars Mark Feuerstein as a recently-divorced actor who moves to a New York apartment where he lives in between his meddlesome parents and his competitive brother and sister-in-law. Monday’s second new comedy is “Me, Myself & I,” which looks at a man’s life over three time periods: As a 14-year-old in 1991 (Jack Dylan Grazer), as a 40-year-old in present day (Bobby Moynihan), and a 65-year-old in 2042 (John Larroquette).
When “The Big Bang Theory” moves to Thursdays at 8 p.m. after CBS finishes airing Thursday night football, spin-off “Young Sheldon” will air at 8:30. The comedy, narrated by “adult Sheldon” (Jim Parsons), follows the “Big Bang Theory” genius growing up in East Texas, where he attended high school at age 9.
New dramas include “Seal Team,” with David Boreanaz as a member of the most elite unit of Navy SEALs, who embark on clandestine missions; “S.W.A.T.,” starring Shemar Moore as a S.W.A.T. sergeant tasked to run a specialized tactical unit in Los Angeles; and “Wisdom of the Crowd,” in which Jeremy Piven plays a tech innovator who creates a crowdsourcing app to help solve his daughter’s murder.
As you might notice, all six new shows star men — and, as one reporter noted, this is the second year in a row that CBS has unveiled a completely male-centered lineup. Moonves defended the network, pointing out “Madam Secretary,” “The Good Fight” (on CBS’ streaming service All Access) and Lucy Liu’s starring role on “Elementary.” He added that plenty of their pilots starred women, and a lot of women are represented in the new schedule. “The best pilots win at the end of the day,” Moonves said. “And we think our track record is OK.”
The reporter pointed out that networks like FX are taking measures to hire more female directors, and wondered if “you guys might be facing in the wrong direction.”
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Moonves replied, and said to look at the totality of the CBS Corporation — news, daytime, sports, Showtime and CW, which all have women behind the scenes and in front of the camera. “I don’t think we’re looking in the wrong direction,” Moonves said. “On the contrary.”