In a move HitFix’s own Alan Sepinwall dubbed “at once the most shocking of upfront week and yet completely irrelevant,” “Rules of Engagement” will become the first scripted network show to land on a Saturday fall schedule since 2004.
“Saturday will probably surprise you a little bit,” said CBS Programming Head Kelly Kahl. “We had kind of a problem this year, and that problem was that we had too much product.”
CBS President Les Moonves concurred, noting, "The bar is very high here. We say to our producers, yeah, you'll have a harder time getting on the air here, but if you get on the air here, your chances of success are... very high."
But for those who’d prefer to see almost anything other than another season of a David Spade
comedy, it may be a head scratcher that the network gave the sitcom, which scores middling but dependable ratings, yet another new night (previously the show aired on Mondays and Thursdays) instead of pushing it to midseason or off the network altogether. But as Kahl pointed out, “’Rules’ has been one of our most useful pieces. Wherever it’s been – Thursdays, Mondays – it’s done well. I think it will bring some people to Saturday nights, maybe get us [skewed] a little younger. It’s [part of] something a little different, but something a little fun to shake things up on Saturday night.”
And, as Alan Sepinwall noted
, it’s just good business. While Sony Pictures owns North American rights to the show, CBS controls international rights (one good reason to boost Adhir Kalyan’s Indian immigrant character to regular status in season four), making syndication where the real money is for the network. “The business of syndication has changed, and it’s changed for us in a good way,” Kahl said. “There’s a big market out there for syndicating your shows now. And as our schedule gets more and more crowded, we’re looking for places, especially with the shows we own, where we can exhibit them and put them into the content chain. It pays for us down the road.”
Pushing the show onto Saturday nights, a traditional dead zone for programming, ensures the network can air all 22 episodes, though Kahl seemed to momentarily forget the network’s seasonal commitment to “Rules.” “We had 13 episodes, we were going to order 13 episodes regardless,” he said, before CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler corrected him. “We liked the idea of bringing something new to Saturday night. Are expectations high? No. It’s Saturday night. We have to try, and if we’re successful, perhaps that opens the door.”
“Rules” also promises to bring in an audience for repeats of one of CBS’ new sitcoms, which might otherwise be lost in the void of Saturday night. “Having a double pumper on a Saturday night will be great for us,” said Tassler. “And knowing that wherever we move [“Rules”] people will go, having it to help this new show was a smart move.” It’s also a move that could make affiliates happy, which is never a negative. “It gives them an opportunity on another night with us not only to have original programming, but to also upgrade their schedule.”
As for those other sitcoms that may be languishing in development hell, CBS executives still haven’t found a way to squeeze them onto the network, though Tassler joked, “We needed Shnursday. We'd joke around, 'Les, can you do anything? Can you get us another night?'"