'CSI' evidence points to scheduling shakeup

david-caruso-laurence-fishburne-csi.jpgCBS, which is once again likely to finish the season as the most-watched network on TV, will likely stick with the if-it-ain't-broke strategy to setting its schedule at next week's upfronts. The network may, however, make a couple sizable scheduling tweaks to its most recognizable franchise, "CSI."

One or more of the three "CSI" shows could potentially move to different timeslots in the fall, the result of declining ratings for the franchise and the network's desire to give some of its newer shows the prime real estate the shows occupy. According to Variety, one option would even be for CBS to hold "CSI: NY" until midseason in order to give a new series the "Criminal Minds" lead-in.

The reason for the possible moves comes down to ratings: All three "CSI" series have declined this season in both viewers and the money-making adults 18-49 demographic. The total-viewer slippage hasn't been too frightening, ranging from "CSI: NY" being basically flat (12.4 million viewers to 12.5 million last season) to "CSI" original recipe being down 9 percent (15.8 million vs. 17.4 million). But all three shows are down by 10 percent or more in the 18-49 demo, with the original show falling a whopping 28 percent (3.9 rating vs. 5.4 in 2008-09).

Since it has the biggest declines, the original "CSI" is probably the most likely candidate to move. Variety says that flipping Thursday timeslots with "The Mentalist" could be an option, as could Friday nights -- where the show began its life in 2000.

If we're playing armchair network executive at Zap2it, though, we'd do the following: Leave "CSI: Miami" where it is, because while it's suffered some opposite the surging "Castle" in the spring, it's still a solid lead-out for the network's comedy block. "NY" and "CSI" would both get new nights, with "NY" going to Fridays at 10 -- where it would likely improve on what "Numb3rs" and "Miami Medical" have done this year -- and "CSI" to Sundays at 9, where it could provide a good lead-in for either "Cold Case" (if it sticks around) or a new series.

The moves would also free up hours on Wednesday and Thursday for new dramas. On Wednesday, CBS could follow the "NCIS" pattern and put the "Criminal Minds" spinoff at 10 after its parent show, or opt for another of its new series. On Thursdays, moving "The Mentalist" to 9 could make a nice platform to launch "Hawaii Five-O" at 10, giving fans a two-hour block of CBS golden boys: "The Mentalist's" Simon Baker and "Five-O" star Alex O'Loughlin.

CBS will announce its 2010-11 schedule on Wednesday, May 19.

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Photo credit: CBS