CBS has picked up three new series for next season: The Equalizer reboot starring Queen Latifah, Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice starring Rebecca Breeds; and the Chuck Lorre-Marco Pennette multi-camera comedy B Positive headlined by Thomas Middleditch and Annaleigh Ashford. The dramas have received straight-to-series orders, while B Positive was the only completed broadcast pilot this season, which was decimated by the coronavirus-related Hollywood production shutdown. As part of the pickups, Chris Noth has joined the cast of The Equalizer, and the remaining cast of Clarice, led by Kal Penn and Michael Cudlitz, has been revealed.
With the TV industry in flux, CBS has been the most proactive with decisions on pilots, recently passing on drama The Lincoln Lawyer, which had a series production commitment, from A+E Studios and CBS TV Studios, and comedy Fun, from Warner Bros. TV. I hear no other CBS pilots have been killed at this time. I hear the idea is for some to hopefully film some off-cycle, while others, primarily dramas, may be rolled to next season. The actors on those pilots are expected to be extended.
It will all depend on when Hollywood production will be able to safely resume. That, in turn, will dictate when the 2020-21 season will start (it may be delayed if there is not enough original content by late September), and how long the season will be.
CBS’ new series picks are not surprising, with all three titles tracking well over the past couple of weeks. The WBTV-produced B Positive had been considered a lock since mid-March when the finished pilot was well received by the network brass. By April, the comedy already was making series production hires.
On the drama side, with no pilots to look at and test, the network was expected to bet on pre-sold titles and big names, which is the case for both The Equalizer, from Universal TV and CBS TV Studios, and Clarice, from CBS Studios. As Deadline reported in March, following the unprecedented Hollywood shutdown over the COVID-19 pandemic, all broadcast networks ordered one backup script each for all of their pilots. At CBS, a couple of comedies reportedly declined the order but the dramas produced additional scripts, I hear. Clarice also had a mini room set up to break stories for the pilot.
The new series pickups come as ViacomCBS earlier this week announced a two-day virtual upfront for advertisers. CBS is presenting on May 19 and plans to unveil “the fall programming lineup.” Also this week, CBS renewed 18 series for 2020-21 including the majority of its drama lineup and a trio of comedies. The network is bringing back a total of 23 shows, scripted, reality and newsmagazines.
Here are descriptions of CBS’ newly picked up series.
CLARICE, from acclaimed executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet, and starring Rebecca Breeds (“Pretty Little Liars”) in the title role, is a deep dive into the untold personal story of brilliant and vulnerable FBI Agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, six months after the events of “The Silence of the Lambs.” Kal Penn, Nick Sandow, Michael Cudlitz, Lucca De Oliveira and Devyn A. Tyler also star. Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet and Heather Kadin are executive producers for MGM Television and CBS Television Studios in association with Secret Hideout. Aaron Baiers is a co-executive producer.
THE EQUALIZER is a reimagining of the classic series starring Academy Award nominee and multi-hyphenate Queen Latifah (“Chicago,” “Bessie”) as an enigmatic woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. Chris Noth, Lorraine Toussaint, Tory Kittles, Liza Lapira and Laya DeLeon Hayes also star. Andrew Marlowe, Terri Miller, Dana Owens (Queen Latifah), John Davis, John Fox, Debra Martin Chase, Richard Lindheim (co-creator of the original “Equalizer” TV series that ran on CBS for four seasons), Shakim Compere and Liz Friedlander (pilot director) are executive producers for Universal Television, a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios, i/a/w CBS Television Studios.
B POSITIVE is from award-winning executive producer, writer and creator Chuck Lorre and Marco Pennette, and stars Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) and Annaleigh Ashford (“Masters of Sex”). The comedy is about a therapist and newly divorced dad who is faced with finding a kidney donor when he runs into a rough-around-the-edges woman from his past who volunteers her own. Together they form an unlikely bond and begin a journey that will change both of their lives. Kether Donohue, Sara Rue and Kamryn Kunody also star. Chuck Lorre and Marco Pennette are executive producers for Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. James Burrows directed the pilot.