After asking "How I Met Your Mother" fans to wait nine seasons for the moment where Ted Mosby comes face-to-face with the woman of his dreams, CBS won't try to stretch that ninth season all the way until May, instead airing the one-hour series finale on March 31.

In doing it this way, CBS loses a potentially huge audience for May sweeps, but it gains a few advantages in the process. First, it minimizes the number of repeats that will air between the next new episode on Jan. 13 and the end (just two in mid-February, during the period when NBC is airing the Winter Olympics), with the last six episodes (including the finale) airing in a row, which will help build some momentum for the finale.

Second, it gives CBS an early glimpse of what a "HIMYM"-less Monday will look like, well in advance of the May upfront schedule announcements. CBS will follow the "HIMYM" finale with the premiere of "Friends with Better Lives," an ensemble comedy — the cast includes Kevin Connolly, James Van Der Beek and Brooklyn Decker — about a group of friends at different stages of life (married, divorced, engaged and single). The first episode will air on the 31st at 9 p.m., and then will begin airing the following week at 8:30, sandwiched in between a "Big Bang Theory" repeat and the men's college basketball championship game. Starting April 14, the new Monday lineup will be "2 Broke Girls" at 8, "Friends with Better Lives" at 8:30, "Mike & Molly" at 9, "Mom" at 9:30 and "Intelligence" at 10.

Depending on how "2 Broke Girls" does leading off an hour (after being demoted from 9 to 8:30 earlier this season), and how "Friends with Better Lives" does as the new piece, CBS' decision-makers a better idea will either have a lot of changes to make to Monday next fall (there's the not-really-a-spin-off "How I Met Your Dad" in development, remember), or they'll be able to relax on that one night and focus new resources elsewhere on the schedule.