'Minds' leads CBS' soph surge
Ensemble drama challenges 'Lost' for auds
By RICK KISSELL
While most attention was paid this fall to which first-year shows smoked or choked, it's worth noting that several second-year CBS skeins have blossomed nicely.
No net has discovered more new hits over the past five years than CBS. And no net has done a better job making sure these skeins didn't veer off track.
Credit the Eye's current department for strong soph-season starts for "Criminal Minds," "Ghost Whisperer," "How I Met Your Mother" and "Close to Home."
Contrast this with skeins back for a second fall season on rival nets. While Fox's "Bones" looks solid and is up slightly in some categories, others including NBC's "My Name Is Earl" and Fox's "Prison Break," while remaining hits, have lost a step or two.
For CBS, the biggest standout has been "Criminal Minds," an ensemble drama about an FBI team solving the crimes of serial killers.
After getting trounced by ABC's "Lost" last season, "Criminal Minds" has surged by 23% in adults 18-49 this fall (4.8 rating vs. 3.9) to place a solid second to the Alphabet skein, which is down 13% (6.8 vs. 7.8), according to Nielsen.
"Criminal Minds" has also recently overtaken "Lost" in total viewers -- thanks to an advantage among viewers 50-plus -- with the Eye entry now pulling in 16.8 million. It's recently cracked the weekly top 10 in this category.
Some "Lost" fans have jumped ship this season amid criticisms its mythology asks many more questions than it answers. And CBS was ready to suck them in with "Criminal Minds," another of the net's procedurals that tidy up all loose ends in one episode.
"Criminal Minds" figures to get a chance to grow even more now that "Lost" is off the air until February.
Of course, Fox's "American Idol" will again be the show to beat Wednesdays at 9 come January, but much like "NCIS" on Tuesday, the Eye now appears to have a skein that can more than keep the lights on against tough competish.
On Friday, psychic drama "Ghost Whisperer" has moved to the head of its class at 8 p.m., rising 10% year to year in 18-49 (3.3 vs. 3.0) despite facing tough gameshow competish on NBC.
Its sked companion, lead-out "Close to Home," also has had a good second season. It is down a tick in 18-49 (3.0 vs. 3.1) and up in total viewers, with its 11.5 million making it the night's most popular program.
Credit the smart cast addition of David James Elliott, who previously starred in the same hour for CBS on "JAG."
"Home" also makes for a nice bridge between "Ghost" and the No. 1 show at 10, "Numbers," as CBS has been the clear No. 1 net on Friday.
And on Monday, "How I Met Your Mother" has become one of the few comedy successes on any net in recent years, coming within a tick of its rookie average (3.5 vs. 3.6) despite being asked to anchor the night at 8 after following the popular "King of Queens" at 8:30 last season.
This has increased its value to CBS, because the net can try out new laffers in the higher-watched 8:30 slot, which serves as a hammock between "Mother" and TV's top comedy, "Two and a Half Men" at 9.
Another plus for "Mother" is that it recently has stood as the highest-rated laffer on CBS among adults under 35. Net has been aiming younger in comedy, and "Mother" has struck a chord with the hard-to-reach 18-34 crowd.
This isn't the first time CBS shows gained steam after ho-hum initial seasons. In recent years, "Cold Case," "Without a Trace" and "NCIS," among others, have all hit series highs in their second, third or fourth seasons.
Indeed, when it comes to knowing how to make the most of an asset following its rookie season, the Eye seems to have it over its rivals.