NEW YORK -- Broadcaster CBS is pushing the boundaries — gently — next season, as it and other networks navigate the rise of streaming. A change-of pace sitcom from "The Big Bang Theory" creator Chuck Lorre and a drama starring Edie Falco of "The Sopranos" glory will join a lineup that also brings former CBS stars back into the fold.
Among the comeback kids is Billy Gardell, who played opposite Melissa McCarthy in CBS' "Mike & Molly" and stars this fall in Lorre's "Bob Hearts Abishola." Gardell plays a Detroit compression sock salesman who falls for his Nigerian-born cardiac nurse. His co-star is Nigerian actress Folake Olowofoyeku, whose credits include "Transparent."
CBS Corp. executive David Nevins described the sitcom as "a different flavor" for Lorre but true to his brand, which includes CBS' "Mom" as well "The Big Bang Theory," which departs Thursday after 12 seasons.
"Bob Hearts Abishola" is about "two adults in middle-age who are sort of unexpected," Nevins said, and resonates with what he called "Norman Lear-ish themes," a reference to the groundbreaking producer of "All in the Family."
"When it comes to finding new voices, CBS will take a chance on anyone who is already on CBS," the network's late-night host Stephen Colbert joked in a brief set for ad buyers who gathered Wednesday for a presentation of the 2019-20 schedule.
"As you can see, despite Lindsey Graham's advice, I honored my subpoena to be here today," he said, throwing one of the political barbs that are a regular feature of his top-rated "Late Show."
Other familiar CBS faces: Pauley Perrette, a former "NCIS" fan favorite, goes for laughs in the midseason sitcom "Broke"; Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") stars as a late-blooming medical intern in the comedy "Carol's Second Act," and Marg Helgenberger ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation") is part of the courthouse drama "All Rise."
The latter two are fall entries, along with "The Unicorn," a comedy about a widower (Walton Goggins) who's stepping gingerly into dating.
Falco, who played a mobster's wife in "The Sopranos" and a drug addict in "Nurse Jackie," shifts gears in midseason's "Tommy," playing a former NYPD officer who becomes the first female police chief in Los Angeles.
HOUSEHOLD NAME PRODUCERS
Lorre isn't the only high-profile producer contributing to CBS' lineup next season.
Fall drama "Evil" is from Michelle and Robert King, the husband-and-wife team behind former CBS hit "The Good Wife" and the CBS All Access series "The Good Fight." The psychological mystery examines the root of evil "along the dividing line between science and religion," the network said.
Producer Dick Wolf, who supplies a veritable warehouse of shows to NBC with his "Chicago" franchise and "Law & Order: SVU," could be trying for the same at CBS. He's following up the drama "FBI" with midseason's "FBI: Most Wanted," with stars including Alana De La Garza and Keisha Castle-Hughes.
Not every revival sticks the landing. "Murphy Brown" with Candice Bergen was one season and done, and joining canceled series that include "Happy Together," ''Fam" and "Life in Pieces."
It remains to be seen whether the end of "Murphy," a hit for CBS back in the '80s and '90s, puts a damper on the revival-reboot trend. Among its successes are "Will & Grace" and "The Conners," salvaged from the "Roseanne" reboot put into jeopardy by its namesake star's racist tweet.