- - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dominant CBS shuffled its schedule for the fall on Wednesday, giving Ashton Kutcher and Simon Baker new nights and adding four new series.

“Two and a Half Men,” on which Mr. Kutcher replaced Charlie Sheen as the star this season, is moving from Monday to Thursday. It will be paired with “The Big Bang Theory” in what CBS hopes is a “super comedy block.”

“The Mentalist,” on which Mr. Baker plays a brainy crime-solver, shifts from Thursday to Sunday.

Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis will star in a new drama about Las Vegas that premieres in the fall, and CBS is transplanting Sherlock Holmes to Manhattan. The series “CSI: Miami,” “Unforgettable” and “Rob” drew cancellation notices.

“We had just one goal, and that is to continue making hit shows,” said CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler.

The changes amount to shuffling chairs on a smooth-sailing cruise ship for CBS, which will win the ratings race again this season, this time by the largest margin between a first- and second-place network in 23 years.

CBS moved “Two and a Half Men” in part to give “2 Broke Girls” its showcase 9 p.m. time slot on Mondays. A new comedy, “Partners,” will join Monday’s schedule. It is based on the lives of creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, whose “bromance” is threatened when one of them gets engaged.

Ms. Tassler said it was a “jump ball” between “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” over which would get canceled. The network decided to keep the newer New York spinoff on Friday nights.

On Tuesday nights, CBS will add “Vegas,” on which Mr. Chiklis plays a Chicago gangster who moves to Las Vegas in the 1960s to create mischief, and Mr. Quaid is the detective who tries to keep the peace.

“Elementary” adds to CBS‘ stockpile of crime dramas, with Jonny Lee Miller playing Holmes and Lucy Liu his assistant Watson. The network’s other new drama, “Made in Jersey,” is about a working class woman who tries to compete with better educated colleagues at a law firm.

‘Dancing With the Stars’ down to the final three

Maria Menounos earned a perfect score on Monday’s episode of “Dancing With the Stars,” but Tuesday, she was ousted from the show.

The 33-year-old TV personality was eliminated from the ABC dance-off one week shy of the finals. Judges’ scores are combined with viewer votes to determine who is dismissed each week.

Singer Katherine Jenkins, actor William Levy and football player Donald Driver will compete Monday for the mirrorball trophy.

Actors Roshon Fegan, Melissa Gilbert, Jaleel White and Jack Wagner already have been eliminated, along with singers Gavin DeGraw and Gladys Knight, TV personality Sherri Shepherd, and tennis champ Martina Navratilova.

Host Tom Bergeron announced Tuesday that next season’s “Dancing With the Stars” will feature contestants from past seasons vying for the title.

PBS combining British, American dramas for fall

PBS’ fall schedule has a definite British accent, courtesy of the returning drama “Upstairs Downstairs” and newcomer “Call the Midwife.”

The prominence of dramas imported from the U.K. is no surprise given PBS’ success with “Downton Abbey,” “Sherlock” and the first season of “Upstairs Downstairs.”

“Call the Midwife,” a six-part series set in 1950s London that was a hit in Britain, will kick off PBS’ new season at 8 p.m. Sept. 30, it was announced Tuesday. Starting Oct. 7, “Midwife” will be followed by sophomore “Upstairs Downstairs” airing as part of the “Masterpiece Classic” showcase.

Pairing the dramas “is really part of our strategy to build around strong series that audiences know and love, like ‘Masterpiece’ and ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ and add new shows,” said John Wilson, PBS’ programming chief.

There’s plenty of Americana as well on public television’s fall schedule, including general election coverage and documentaries on two devastating chapters of U.S. history.

“The Dust Bowl,” a two-part, four-hour documentary from Ken Burns airing Nov. 18 and 19, details the 1930s environmental disaster that unleashed deadly dust storms and ravaged Great Plains farmlands.

Ric Burns, the other prominent member of the filmmaking family, has an “American Experience” documentary airing Sept. 18, “Death and the Civil War,” that explores the conflict’s deep social impact. The film will air on the 150th anniversary of Antietam, considered the bloodiest day of battle on U.S. soil.

Other upcoming PBS programs include “Broadway or Bust,” a documentary about top high school musical performers; “American Masters” films on writer Carl Sandburg and producer David Geffen; and “Half the Sky,” about people battling female oppression around the world.

“Independent Lens” will move to Mondays beginning Oct. 29, to be followed there by “POV” when that film series begins its 2013 season. The “PBS Arts” programs airing Friday nights will include the four-part series “Voces,” focusing on Hispanic arts, and “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance.”

PBS’ scheduling announcements coincided with the broadcasting networks’ “upfront week,” in which new programs are presented in New York to Madison Avenue. PBS is funded by member stations, donors and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Downtown Abbey,” which drew a total of 17 million viewers to make it the most-watched “Masterpiece” series on record, is in production on season three. PBS has yet to announce an air date for the drama about landed gentry and their servants, but it’s expected to return in January 2013.

Philippine president picks favorite on ‘Idol’

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has picked his “American Idol.”

The Philippines’ leader said he is happy Jessica Sanchez is one of the singing contest’s top three finalists and “hopefully she really reaches the top.”

Jessica, 16, is from Chula Vista, Calif., and has Filipino and Latino heritage. She is being cheered by many in the Philippines and by the Filipino and Mexican communities in the U.S.

The “American Idol” finale airs next week.

• Compiled from Web and wire reports

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