A week ago, CBS announced that an episode of "Criminal Minds" would get the primo post-Super Bowl time period. And why not? "Criminal Minds," in spite of reviews that compare it (sometimes unfavorably) to a snuff film, has been the season's biggest growth story, edging perilously close to timeslot rival "Lost" in the 18-49 demographic and occasionally passing it in total viewers. It's become such a force that ABC will actually move "Lost" back an hour to 10 o'clock Wednesdays when it returns in February.
Here's why not: Because "How I Met Your Mother" -- the best traditional sitcom left on TV, and the first true heir to "Friends" -- is also on the CBS schedule, just waiting for this kind of showcase.
What's the upside on "Criminal Minds," especially when "American Idol" will be moving into the time period just as "Lost" is moving out? True, nobody expected it to do as well as it already has this year. And there's a chance it could follow the pattern of last year's post-pigskin show, "Grey's Anatomy," which was already rising up the charts before the game and is now the most popular show on television.
But at the end of the day, as people in the TV business like to say, how much higher can "Criminal Minds" go on a network that's in the double figures on crime dramas? If you want to watch a procedural police show, chances are you're more than familiar with CBS' line-up, even if you haven't checked them all out. Maybe the Super Bowl exposure nudges this show ahead a little, but a "Grey's"-like explosion? Nah.
"How I Met Your Mother," on the other hand, is the exact kind of show that can take advantage of the borrowed Super Bowl audience. The story of five New York friends in their late 20s looking for love and having silly adventures, it's not remotely what people expect to find on CBS. If it were airing on NBC Thursdays at 8:30 four or five years ago, it would be a sensation; on CBS in 2006, it's a solidly-performing afterthought.
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