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CBS banks on hot 'CSI' to follow 'Survivor' on Thursdays

Friday, January 26, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, CALIF. -- The investigators of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (a repeat airs at 9 tonight, CBS) have made maggots sexy and mysterious deaths cool. And now they're out to tame "WWF Smackdown" and swipe viewers from "Will & Grace." Next week, "CSI" moves to 9 p.m. Thursday following "Survivor: The Australian Outback."

Series star William Petersen said the challenging new time slot, opposite NBC's "Will & Grace," doesn't faze him.

"I was interested in doing television because it's a new challenge [for me]," Petersen said. "It's kind of thrilling. We're going to go up and wrestle an audience on a real tough TV night ... I guarantee you we'll beat wrestling."

CBS executives said part of the reason for moving "CSI," the highest-rated new drama of the season, was to acquire more advertising for films opening Friday.

Movie commercials are lucrative business for networks on Thursday night, but the studios aren't interested in advertising to the older viewers who watched previous Thursday night CBS shows "Diagnosis Murder" or "City of Angels." The studios want to capture younger viewers, the kind of people who will watch "Survivor 2" and "CSI."

Executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer was enthusiastic about the new time slot.

"There are a lot more eyeballs available on Thursday," Bruckheimer said. "I've always enjoyed playing in the big leagues and now we're in the big leagues. The only thing you have to worry about is will they find the show, and I know CBS will promote our show and tell the audience that has already found it that we're moving to another night."

Bruckheimer described "CSI" as a process show that takes viewers into a world they'll never be a part of and showing them how crime-scene investigators do their jobs, unraveling puzzles. Petersen agreed.

"This is the new world of crime solving," he said. "These are the guys who are going to put people away and [exonerate] people over the course of the next 25 years. The criminalist is completely different than what we are used to in terms of homicide detectives and stuff like that. Technology has taken us to this place."

Petersen acknowledged these criminal investigators have long been a part of the crime-solving process, but their profiles are on the rise.

"We've known they existed in the old homicide shows, it's just that they were never covered because nobody thought that a fingerprint would be interesting," Petersen said. "By figuring out how to shoot a fingerprint, how to see a hair fiber or carpet fiber, that was the key for it to be thrilling on a visual level."

CYBILL LEAVES "MARS": The struggling talk show "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" (1:05 a.m. weekdays, WTAE) is shaking up its format, replacing Cybill Shepherd with five new co-hosts.

The show, which focuses on relationships, will feature a mixed bag of male and female hosts: former model and TV host Christina Ferrare; radio hosts Bo Griffin and Sam Phillips; Dr. Drew Pinsky ("Loveline") and comedian Rondell Sheridan.

The changes, including a new format with varied segments, will begin Feb. 1.

The show wasn't effective in capitalizing on the "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" brand name, taken from John Gray's best-selling advice book, its syndicator said this week.

"We believe the best way to honor the 'Mars/Venus' concept was by bringing together male and female voices that also had different life experiences and points of view," said Russ Krasnoff, programming head for Columbia TriStar Television Distribution.

The show has been among the lowest-rated new syndicated offerings. (Associated Press)

"WWF SMACKDOWN" IS SAFE: UPN came to an agreement with Chris-Craft Industries to continue programming its shows on Chris-Craft's eight television stations. When News Corp., owners of the Fox network, among other things, acquired Chris-Craft, it was hinted that UPN series would be dumped, possibly for some new kind of Fox-related programming.

The move would have limited UPN's penetration around the country to the point where it couldn't have survived. (Allan Johnson, Chicago Tribune)

"CHRIS ISAAK" PREMIERES IN MARCH: Showtime has finally announced the premiere date of the long-awaited "Chris Isaak Show" as March 12. Blending fact and fiction, the one-hour comedy series presents a quirky look at life "behind the scenes" of the rock crooner Chris Isaak. The pay cable net has ordered 17 episodes of the series, which is produced by Viacom Productions.

Set in San Francisco, the series stars Chris Isaak, with Kristin Datillo ("The Duplex") as his manager and fictional band mates Jed Rees ("Galaxy Quest") and Bobby Jo Moore ("Tilt"). Members of Isaak's real-life backup band Silvertone (Kenney Dale Johnson, Rowland Salley and Hershel Yatovitz) are also regulars playing themselves in the series. The program will feature Isaak performing in concert and on tour, but the real focus is the star's life off stage.

The show will also feature a series of guest stars including Minnie Driver, Stevie Nicks, Adam Arkin, Shawn Colvin, Bai Ling, Jay Leno and "Poison" singer Bret Michaels. "Chris Isaak" is written and executive produced by Emmy-winners Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider ("Northern Exposure").

Although primarily known for his singing career, Isaak has appeared in the films "Married to the Mob," "Silence of the Lambs," "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," "Little Buddha" and the television miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon." He also has made a series of comedic cameo appearances on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." (Zap2it.com)

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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