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Don’t adjust your set ... these shows really are spawning spinoffs


When it comes to its prime-time lineup, CBS has become so conservative it makes that town from “Footloose” seem downright forward thinking.

But the network’s risk-averse strategy makes sense considering some of its shows are so successful, their reruns routinely attract more viewers than new episodes on its competition.

So if you like what you’re seeing, get ready for more of the same. In some cases, literally.

This week’s episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (10 p.m. Wednesday, KLAS-TV, Channel 8) finds the CSIs looking into the “cyber-related murder,” whatever that is, of a casino owner’s wife. In doing so, they receive help from Special Agent Avery Ryan (Patricia Arquette) of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division.

It’s what’s known as a backdoor pilot for what could become the long-running drama’s third spinoff.

Even though it’s been years since he was actively involved in the series he created, Chaparral High School and UNLV graduate Anthony Zuiker returned to write the episode along with Ann Donahue and Carol Mendelsohn, with whom he launched “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY.”

If this backdoor pilot business feels familiar, it’s because CBS just used a two-part episode of “NCIS” to introduce a potential New Orleans-based spinoff starring Scott Bakula. That aired almost a year to the day after a two-parter that tried to establish “NCIS: Red,” a traveling version of the series that would have starred Kim Raver and John Corbett.

That “CSI” will air a day after an episode of The CW’s “Supernatural” (9 p.m. Tuesday, KVCW-TV, Channel 33) that’s intended to lead to a series about a collection of mob-style monster families that rule the Chicago underground. That’s in addition to “The Flash,” the planned “Arrow” spinoff on The CW, half of which is owned by CBS.

While not technically a spinoff, CBS also is working on “How I Met Your Dad,” from the creative team behind “How I Met Your Mother.” The comedy would follow a new group of friends in a similar storyline that’s hopefully more than just an excuse to eventually have the young lady at its center be revealed as No. 31, aka Barney’s curiously unnamed and unseen baby mama.

CBS isn’t alone in this. Besides The CW’s “Vampire Diaries” spinoff, “The Originals,” the current TV season also has seen ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” spinoff, “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” and NBC’s “Chicago Fire” spinoff, “Chicago P.D.” (Given that, can “Chicago Sanitation” really be that far behind?)

We’ll find out in mid-May whether Zuiker’s latest lands a place on the CBS schedule.

Even if it does, though, “CSI” will have a long way to go to reach the top of the spinoff charts. “All in the Family” spawned “Maude,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “Archie Bunker’s Place,” “Checking In,” “Gloria” and “704 Hauser.”

■ Special screening: The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas and the Simon Wiesenthal Center are sponsoring a free screening of “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers,” a documentary focusing on Yehuda Avner, aide to Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres. For tickets, see www.wiesenthal.com/lasvegasscreening.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.