TCA: Friday Becoming CBS’ Night for Weird Shows

Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne-influenced spy show “Chaos” gets a chance in a TV wasteland

Last Updated: August 5, 2011 @ 3:14 PM

Is Friday night CBS' new testing ground for mold-breaking shows?

The jaunty CIA action-comedy "Chaos," debuting April 1 in the Friday at 8 p.m. slot, mixes dark and silly to bring black humor to black ops. Like "Blue Bloods," a family cop show that also debuted on Fridays, it doesn't fit easily into the "NCIS" or "CSI" successful procedural models.

CBS Entertainment President flatly shot down the idea that "Chaos" was a straight "crime and punishment" show at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "No, it's not," she told a reporter who thought it was.

"Chaos" was briefly sidelined last year before scoring its unenviable time slot. But Fridays proved a great launching pad for "Blue Bloods," which scored strong enough ratings to move to Wednesdays.

With a packed schedule and solid ratings, Friday night is one of the only places CBS can try out new shows.

It makes sense for CBS, which thrives on easily categorized procedurals and sitcoms, to try out riskier shows during the night always dismissed as a TV no-man's-land. Other networks have also tried, usually without success, to give atypical shows a chance to flourish amid Friday's lower expectations. Fox insists that it was't dooming "Fringe," for example, when it announced the show's move to Fridays starting this month.  

NBC had planned to move its moody, slow-burn cop drama "Southland" to Fridays before opting to cancel it instead. It found a more welcoming home with TNT.

Shows are usually relegated to Friday after an unsuccessful start elsewhere, but the success of "Blue Bloods" suggests hope for "Chaos" as well.

How dark does the show go? A preview shown during TCA made light of a new CIA operative mistaking potato farmers for enemy combatants. Every new procedural says it isn't a typical procedural, but the deadpan tone of "Chaos" — which stars "Six Feet Under" actor Freddy Rodriguez — may truly separate it.

Creator Tom Spezialy says his influences for the show include Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne, Mike Nichols and Richard Lester, whose "Musketeers" films he watched before working on the pilot — names that don't come up much in reviews of "CSI: Miami."

Even the mission of the CIA itself is darkly comedic, Spezialy said. "The whole conceit of the CIA was go out and find threats to America," he said. "So think about it: If you don't find a threat you lose your job."