According to the Hollywood Reporter, sources say series creator Phil Rosenthal and star Ray Romano have agreed to go for a ninth season but will most likely shorten the order to less than the full 22-episodes.
With a shortened season, however, CBS will have to work out new salary deals for Romano, who currently ranks as primetime's highest paid star at nearly $2 million per episode, as well as co-stars Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts.
CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday he would only say that he's "very guardedly optimistic" that the network's top-rated sitcom will be back next season.
Meanwhile, CBS claimed a victory for total viewership during the February sweeps week (Feb. 5-Mar. 3), which came to a close Wednesday, while NBC looks to be the winner in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic, the trade paper reports.
CBS won the period by its widest February margin in a decade with 14.1 million viewers, up 1 percent from the year-ago period, followed by NBC (12.1 million, down 3 percent), ABC (10.3 million, unchanged) and Fox (9.3 million, down 23 percent). UPN and the WB Network were tied at 3.9 million viewers, with UPN up 7 percent from year-ago and WB off 10 percent.
NBC held onto its grip on the adults 18-49 crown after losing to Fox and the Joe Millionaire phenomenon in last year's February sweeps. The runner up, however, is expected to be a tie between CBS and Fox, according to the Reporter. But Fox could pull ahead by a hair if this week's regularly scheduled editions of American Idol bring in the big numbers.
In other TV news…
The untitled Rock project is described as an autobiographical coming-of-age comedy loosely based on his experience growing up "on the nicest block in the ghetto," while Martin is executive producing a pilot about a multigenerational Cuban-American family in Miami, as seen through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy.
Richter, Conan O'Brien's former sidekick who starred in Fox's short-lived comedy Andy Richter Controls the Universe, is trying it again with an untitled comedy centered on 15-year-old quintuplets living in a three-bedroom suburban house.
In other pilot casting news, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Somerhalder, Jorge Garcia and Evangeline Lilly will play castaways in J.J. Abrams' drama Lost for ABC…Mykelti Williamson is close to joining ABC's drama The Secret Service, which revolves around a married woman (Sarah Wayne Callies) who works for the clandestine government agency…Marisa Coughlan (Super Troopers) has been tapped as the lead in ABC's Kat Plus One, about a young New York publicist whose life turns upside down when she has to raise her nephew (Jimmy Bennett) after his parents suddenly die.