CBS’ move of “Two and a Half Men” to Thursday nights following “The Big Bang Theory” is either a very savvy programming move or an acknowledgment that the show’s best days are behind it. Possibly both.
At the network’s annual upfront press breakfast Wednesday (May 16), CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl explained the shift this way: “In a way, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ presents a little bit of a unique problem. It appeals to males, females, young, old — it’s a remarkably broad show. Part of the problem we’ve had in the past [couple of seasons] is finding a show that is as broad as ‘Big Bang.'”
“Men” comes closer than any other comedy on CBS to filling that bill. Its ratings (14.9 million viewers and a 5.2 rating among adults 18-49) are very close to those of “Big Bang” (15.94 million, 5.6), and it will likely retain its lead-in audience better than anything else the network has — which in turn should help “Person of Interest” at 9 o’clock. It also lets CBS move “2 Broke Girls” to the 9 p.m. Monday slot and give a cozy Monday home to its new comedy “Partners.”
That all makes sense — but it’s still hard not to see the move as a nod to the fact that “Men” is aging. Its ratings are basically flat with two seasons ago (a better comparison than last year’s shortened season, which was all reruns for the last three months), even including the massive numbers Ashton Kutcher‘s first couple of episodes generated. Kahl noted Wednesday that in the second half of the season, “2 Broke Girls” drew very similar ratings to “Men” and occasionally outscored it among women 18-49.
With “Men” gone, the Monday lineup also tilts heavily toward young series, which — provided the new slate works — can mean more long-term stability. Even though “How I Met Your Mother’s” ratings jumped this season, no one expects it to be around for more than one or two more seasons. But of the other three shows in the block next year, only “Mike & Molly” will have been on the air for more than two seasons. It’s a lot easier to replace one aging show in a comedy block than two.
“Two and a Half Men” was once “The Big Bang Theory’s” lead-in and helped the latter show become a success. The situation is reversed now, and it feels a little bit like an adult child taking in an aging parent. The old show still has its wits about it, but it could use a little help getting around.