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CBS builds on its successful strategy

The only network that seemed prepared for the writers' strike two years ago was CBS, which has managed to do quite nicely playing to its strengths.
In the last two seasons, it premiered the most popular new comedy, "The Big Bang Theory" and the most popular new drama, "The Mentalist."

Sure, "CSI" is a bit long in the tooth but it has survived the head-to-head battle with "Grey's Anatomy," and the producers have plans to put new lead Laurence Fishburne to better use in his second season.
CBS' boldest move is moving "The Mentalist" to 10 p.m. Thursday after "CSI," which seems to be a direct attack on NBC's "Jay Leno Show."

With things going so well for CBS, it only is premiering four new shows in the fall, all of which have lead actors or actresses who are very recognizable to network TV audiences. That's a frequent CBS strategy. Here is a capsule summary:
"Accidentally on Purpose," 8:30 p.m. Monday: Statuesque Jenna Elfman ("Dharma and Greg") is in a series that has a premise that is similar to that of the popular Judd Apatow movie, "Knocked Up," which starred Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. Based on a nonfiction book, Elfman plays a 37-year-old San Francisco newspaper film critic and a cougar who apparently becomes accidentally pregnant after breaking up with her boss (Grant Snow) in Paris and having a one-night stand with a young, sweet stud, Zack (Jon Foster), who lives in a van and has the usual assortment of Rogenesque-like friends. She claims she is five years younger than she is and is caught in a lie when she has to confirm her age to a doctor.
"That's when I thought I would never see you again," she tells the stud.
You'll Like It If: You've missed Elfman, enjoy repetitive sex jokes and think we need another series about unsatisfied women.
You'll Hate It If: You think story lines like this should stay in R-rated movies and star younger actresses like Heigl.
Outlook: Wringing laughs out of this risque material is going to be a tough order even for Elfman. And she has zero chemistry with Foster, who plays the young stud. But CBS comedies rarely fail on Mondays.

Rating: Two stars (out of four4)

"NCIS, Los Angeles," 9 p.m. Tuesday: This spin-off of the popular series stars Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J and Linda Hunt. They work in a division of NCIS that assumes false identities and uses advanced technology to apprehend dangerous criminals who threaten national interests.
O'Donnell plays an agent who infiltrates the underworld, and LL Cool J is a former Navy Seal and surveillance expert. Hunt oversees the support staff.
You'll Like It If: It has a built-in audience with the "NCIS" lead-in. And you enjoy shows that combine suspense, humor and follow a team that treats each other like family members.
You'll Hate It If: You're not a fan of O'Donnell or spin-offs.
Outlook: The premiere is even better than expected. It is suspenseful, funny and has a few great twists to go along with the buddy show elements that give it heart. Can't miss.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

"The Good Wife," 10 p.m. Tuesday: Julianna Margulies, the "ER" star recently seen in the Fox legal series, "Canterbury's Law," is back playing a defense lawyer who returns to work after her political husband (Chris Noth) gets caught in a political scandal with obvious similarities to the Eliot Spitzer case and other disgraced politicians. One former law school classmate (Josh Charles of "Sports Night") has her back, but Christine Baranski plays a senior lawyer with a history of being threatened by bright associates.
You'll Like It If: You like shows about office politics and police incompetence, believe in Margulies' star power and would watch Baranski in anything.
You'll Hate It: You wish the plot didn't borrow so liberally from the Spitzer case -- the hooker than Noth's character is caught with is even named Amber -- and you're not into watching legal cat fights.
Outlook: Margulies plays a much more sympathetic character than she did in "Canterbury," and Noth does well playing a creep trying to find a loophole to get an out-of-jail card. The pilot is good and even close to great, and the cast is to die for.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

"Three Rivers," 9 p.m. Sunday: Alex O'Loughlin plays a caring doctor at a hospital in Pittsburgh that specializes in transplants.
You'll Like It If: You haven't gotten the handsome O'Loughlin out of your mind since he starred as a vampire in the failed CBS drama "Moonlight."
You'll Hate It If: You feel that NBC's "ER" was such a realistic hospital drama that it spoiled future medical shows for you. And you think hospital series shouldn't specialize in one area like transplants.
Outlook: It already has had some cast changes, which isn't a good sign. And Trent Williams failed in a similar TNT series a few seasons back, "Heartland." O'Loughlin will have to hope a third series is a charm because this one has a style that transports viewers back to the 1980s.

Rating: Two stars



>Television Reviews

"Accidentally on Purpose"

Review: Two stars (out of four)

8:30 p.m. Monday


"NCIS, Los Angeles"

Review: 3 1/2 stars

9 p.m. Tuesday


"The Good Wife"

Review: 3 1/2 stars

10 p.m. Tuesday


"Three Rivers"

Review: Two stars

9 p.m. Sunday


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