Upfront Week: CBS Hopes Friday is the New Thursday! Meanwhile, The CW Checks Into Melrose Place

You have to give CBS credit: As a network, they consistently avoid taking chances, instead relying on well-worn formulas and solid branding to create successful shows. So it wasn’t very surprising to find that the fall schedule unveiled at their upfront presentation yesterday was decidedly pedestrian. The big moves—How I Met Your Mother shifts to 8 p.m. on Mondays! The Mentalist switches to Thursdays at 10! (Quick note: You might need a second DVR to record all the programs now airing on Thursdays)—weren’t actually that big at all. However, one thing about their schedule did catch our attention: Do television executives know something about Friday nights that we don’t?

With the announcement yesterday that CBS is placing the recently acquired Medium on Fridays at 9 (sandwiched between Ghost Whisperer and Num3ers), the nominal dead zone on network schedules has turned into a ridiculously competitive time slot. Think about this roster of shows airing across the four networks at 9 p.m.: Medium on CBS, John Wells’ moderately well-received Southland on NBC, former phenom Ugly Betty on ABC, and the lowly rated Dollhouse from geek darling Joss Whedon on Fox. And you thought Fridays were just for reruns!

Perhaps this is a sign of things to come, though. Since the way viewers watch television programs has become increasing displaced, the day the programs actually air is becoming somewhat moot. Think of this rash of watchable Friday programming as the first step toward having an On Demand system for network television; it’s as if audiences are expressly being told to watch these shows whenever they like. So maybe this is a good thing! Or, maybe the networks just have a lot of shows they want to burn off without anyone noticing. Either way, we’ll make sure to clear some DVR space for Fridays.

In other upfront news! The CW is certainly hoping viewers like some combination of models, nostalgia and vampires (though not all at the same time), as the little-network-that-can’t added three new shows to its lineup. The Mischa Barton–starring, Ashton Kutcher–produced The Beautiful Life takes care of the models; the completely unnecessary reigniting of Melrose Place handles nostalgia; and the girl-meets-vampire tale The Vampire Diaries deals with the vampires in a manner reminiscent of Twilight. Not making the final cut? Josh Schwartz’s Gossip Girl spinoff. Which might be a bonus since it gives him more time to concentrate on both Gossip Girl and Chuck. Still, we’re fairly confident even third-rate Josh Schwartz has to be better than another Melrose Place. Upfront Week: CBS Hopes Friday is the New Thursday! Meanwhile, The CW Checks Into Melrose Place