I’ve learned that the orders for NBC’s 13 new scripted series for next season vary, from the standard 13 episodes to eight. The decision on the size of each order was made based primarily on scheduling, with the network taking into the account the likely places for the shows that did not land on the fall schedule.
Among the comedies, I hear Mike Schur’s fall series The Good Place and Tracey Wigfield’s midseason Great News, produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, have been ordered for 13 episodes. Both come from Universal TV. Warner Bros. TV’s Powerless and Trial & Error — both for midseason — also are producing 13 episodes each, which I hear was built into the projects’ license fee deals. The remaining midseason comedy, the multi-camera Marlon, from Uni TV, has been ordered for 10 episodes. NBC also was looking to order 10 episodes of its other multi-camera comedy, sophomore The Carmichael Show, but eventually upped that to 13 episodes after leading studio 20th TV balked at the shortened order.
On the drama side, the straight-to-series Emerald City and Taken are 10 episodes each, while The Blacklist spinoff is eight. I hear the eight-episode order for The Blacklist: Redemption came out of a very specific spot considered in the fall. The spinoff ended up being held for midseason, but the order remained the same, and I hear it fits with NBC’s current plans for it. The other new dramas are the standard 13 episodes.
Planning ahead on the sizes of the orders helps avoid reductions down the line. It happened last fall when NBC trimmed the orders for midseason comedies Superstore and Telenovela from 13 to 11 episodes after figuring out their spots on the schedule. (They bridged the two cycles of The Voice on Monday). The reduction had no bearing on the shows’ prospects — Superstore became a breakout hit and landed as a Thursday 8 PM anchor on the next fall schedule — but any order cut news inevitably has a perceived negative connotation. If the network’s needs change, it can add on extra episodes to the original abbreviated order.
For dramas, making orders tailored to the network’s scheduling need would allow creators to plan the arcs of their stories. The drawback for new series with smaller orders would be that their showrunners have to compete for hot writers with other new series that have 13-episode pickups, guaranteeing scribes more paychecks. Meanwhile, by trimming several orders, the network could save enough for another series pickup.