Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CBS Bouncing Back, Shaking off Sensible-Shoes Image

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CBS Bouncing Back, Shaking off Sensible-Shoes Image

Article excerpt

CAN it be true? Has clunky old CBS, in recent years the TV equivalent of sensible shoes, been born again into a hip, happening network?

And if so, will the faithful "Murder, She Wrote" and Metamucil set simply be cast aside?

Well, yes and no.

The CBS encountered last week on the final network leg of the summer press tour for television critics was certainly a different CBS, as bouncy as the trampoline brought in for an opening-night party.

Leslie Moonves, six days on the job as president of CBS Entertainment, has brought a spunky new spirit to the network even as he introduces a fall schedule mainly set by his predecessor.

Moonves came to CBS from Warner Bros., where he developed hit series including "Friends" and "ER" - both, as it happens, on a network other than the one he now calls his own.

He's wanted to run a network entertainment division for years, Moonves admits.

"Being on the supply side of the television business, you always wonder what it would be like to be one of those guys in that chair fooling around with the schedule," he said.

"I feel like a kid in a candy store - and it's my candy store."

Excited as he is, Moonves is well aware of CBS' problems. In the 1994-95 season, the network finished completely out of the money among viewers 18-49, those in demand by advertisers.

"This is not going to be a quick fix," Moonves said of the network's attempted demographic repairs. "It's going to take patience, and that's something I'm not well known for."

But he said that "to go from what our demographic base is now (primarily viewers over 50) to the Fox-type audience overnight is ridiculous."

CBS' fall schedule "is not like a Fox schedule where it basically says if you're over 35, don't show up," Moonves said. "We still have a lot of traditional CBS shows."

What's more, quality programs "can attract 18-49 and not send away the older viewers," he said.

The change to a younger-skewing CBS is "more a gradual game plan." Immediate changes will include a more youthful, hipper look in promos, ads on cable channels like MTV and a stylish new version of the CBS eye.

For fall, CBS is introducing 11 new series, "and conventional wisdom says that may be too many," Moonves said, adding, "in fact, that may be the case."

But he said he was prepared to stand behind the schedule announced by his predecessor, Peter Tortorici, who resigned on learning that Moonves would be brought in above him.

"There are shows that I like, and there are shows that I don't like," he said. "And no, I won't tell you which is which."

But even while proclaiming the schedule "our schedule," Moonves said he had made changes in casting and "in the direction of some shows."

He also removed "Matt Waters," starring talk-show host Montel Williams, from the lineup, replacing it with "New York News," a series he developed at Warner Bros. and pushed hard to sell to CBS.

"New York News," starring Mary Tyler Moore and Madeline Kahn, got the spot not because of its Warner Bros. ties but because it's a quality show, Moonves insisted.

"Matt Waters" was postponed because of Williams' busy schedule but will reach the air at midseason, he said.

Moonves said being on the other side from some of his "children" - shows developed at Warner Bros. …

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