Fox, NBC Adjust Wednesday's Prime-Time Lineups

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Simon Cowell of American Idol fame is back on Fox with the debut of The X Factor. On NBC, two new shows air for the first time: Free Agents and Up All Night which stars Christina Applegate and Will Arnett. David Greene talks to Kim Masters of the Hollywood Reporter, and she also hosts The Business on member station KCRW.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

This week's season premiere of "Two and a Half Men" scored the show its biggest ratings ever with almost 28 million viewers. Pretty amazing given the big change in the cast. Last season was cut short when the show's star Charlie Sheen had his meltdown. For more on "Two and a Half Men's" new man and also the rest of the fall TV season lineup, we reached Kim Masters. She's editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter.

Hello, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Good morning.

GREENE: So "Two and a Half Men" premiered on CBS Monday night with Ashton Kutcher, no Charlie Sheen, because they killed off Charlie Sheen's character. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TWO AND A HALF MEN")

JON CRYER: (as Alan Harper) Charlie lived life on his own terms and never apologized for who he was.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) Yeah. Blah, blah, blah. Why can't we see the body?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOMAN: (as character) Yeah, I didn't come all this way to spit on a closed coffin.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Well, how did that go over?

MASTERS: Well, I think the critics have been a little more receptive than I would've anticipated. Charlie Sheen, as you know, that did not go well. There's a little bit of hostility perhaps expressed in that clip.

GREENE: You think? You could hear that.

MASTERS: Yeah. But this is a hugely important piece of business for CBS. I mean, this is the number one sitcom in television. It's like a billion dollar property. And so it's going to continue at least, I think, for a season. And hopefully, from CBS's point of view, beyond.

GREENE: Well, that's the drama in comedy on CBS. Let's move onto the other big story. Another big story this fall TV season is going to be the launch of "X Factor" on Fox. What's going on there?

MASTERS: Yeah, there is a lot of drama on TV, even in reality competitions. Despite all the success of "American Idol," all the principles kind of loathe each other. And so Simon Cowell left last year. "American Idol" continued to do extremely well. But Simon Cowell is now launching his own show, "X Factor."

You'll see a different panel of judges. You'll see different rules of the game. There are - unlike "American Idol," which is individuals with age restrictions, "X Factor" is open to people from 12 up into their 80s. And...

GREENE: You might see some elderly people singing onstage.

MASTERS: We will see elderly people in the first one that will air tonight.

GREENE: Let's go to ABC. They have a pile of new shows. What's going on?

MASTERS: Yeah. Well, we have, you know, we just talked about CBS and Fox, which are the two mighty networks. So now we're talking about ABC and, I presume, NBC, which are struggling much more than the other two competitors.

And ABC therefore has a lot of holes to fill in its schedule. And they're throwing a lot of stuff out there hoping to attract women, such as "Charlie's Angels," a remake. "Pan Am," which looks a little bit like "Mad Men" wanna-be.

GREENE: "Mad Men" wanna-be but on planes with flight attendants.

MASTERS: Yes, exactly. And they're - they got some stuff for the guys, too. They're going for comedy. They're bringing back Tim Allen, who hasn't had a sitcom on TV since he was hugely successful with "Home Improvement" some years ago.

GREENE: So, Kim, you mentioned that NBC is a network that's certainly struggling. They're trying to build a comedy block on Wednesday, it sounds like, with two shows - "Free Agents," and then there's this show called "Up All Night" that they've been promoted with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett.

MASTERS: Right. Sitcoms are really, really profitable for the networks. You know, they rerun. They can be sold in all kinds of packages. A lot of the networks are making runs at these things, including NBC.

"Up All Night" is about Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as parents of a baby that they didn't, I don't think, fully expect. And they're finding the shock of contending with this baby is a lot to deal with.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "UP ALL NIGHT")

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: (as Reagan) I got no sleep last night. I mean, I was up with Amy from 1 to 4.

WILL ARNETT: (as Chris) Well, I was up from 10 to midnight. You probably don't remember that, because you were asleep while I was awake.

APPLEGATE: (as Reagan) No. You were asleep when I got up at 1, because I saw you. I mean, because I was awake.

ARNETT: (as Chris) No. I'm sure you were groggy from being in such a deep sleep that you did not see that my eyes were wide open and I was indeed awake.

APPLEGATE: (as Reagan) No. You were...

MASTERS: I think any parent of a new baby will find that relatable.

GREENE: It's the fall. It's TV time. Enjoy watching. We've been talking to Kim Masters. She's the host of The Business on KCRW.

Thanks, Kim.

MASTERS: Thank you, David.

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