CBS looks to be the busiest network with Thursday changes. They were unable to capitalize on their smash BIG BANG THEORY lead-in to propel $%*! MY DAD SAYS, so they'll try again with a younger odd couple buddy comedy, HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN, starring and written by David Hornsby. At 9 p.m., CSI is not just long in the tooth, but it seems unlikely to ever recover from the loss of William L Petersen, so we see THE MENTALIST finally ascending into that slot, providing a launching pad for THE 2-2, a show about rookie NY cops that has a good pedigree (pilot written by novelist Richard Price, Executive Producer Robert DeNiro) and a familiar premise... but "familiar" has never been a dirty word at CBS. They should hold steady for the night or possibly edge up a bit if 2-2 gets some attention.
NBC has the second biggest challenge of the season with an existing show (CBS's Charlie Sheen soap opera takes the prize): keeping THE OFFICE on top without Steve Carell. Frankly, the Will Ferrell story arc didn't bode well for the future, but it's not a show one should dismiss too quickly. The network will stick with three of its four sitcoms for the fall, again holding the fourth on the bench to come in later in the season (last year it was PARKS & RECREATION, this season we think it'll be the cultier COMMUNITY).
PARKS & REC, in fact, seems strong enough to serve as a lead-in these days, and we think it'll launch the WHITNEY CUMMINGS PROJECT, which stars and is written by the stand-up comic and has gotten great buzz. At 10 p.m., we see the network dumping its extra hour of comedies for AWAKE, which keeps getting compared to INCEPTION (it takes place in simultaneous alternate realities), which is enough to make it both worth a look and unlikely to become a mass market hit. Overall, NBC should decline a bit for the night due to Carell's exit.
FOX will again follow in AMERICAN IDOL's footsteps and launch the second hour of X-FACTOR to start the night. After that, they have a bit of a returning show issue themselves, with Emily Deschanel's pregnancy making BONES a spotty presence for fall. So the network will do the next best thing and launch the BONES spinoff THE FINDER in its slot while Ms Deschanel has her child. (Fun fact! she's married to David Hornsby, who we think will be looking for his own share of Thursday ratings with HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN on CBS.) If X FACTOR performs, it should lift FINDER above BONES's pre-IDOL numbers from last fall.
The CW will use its biggest hit, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, to launch THE SECRET CIRCLE, with which it shares writer/producer Kevin Williamson and its source material, the novels of L.J. Smith. Sometimes this stuff isn't rocket science.
GREY'S ANATOMY isn't the powerhouse it used to be, but it's still the centerpiece of a solidly successful night for ABC.