EXCLUSIVE: Broadcast TV series are very slowly and cautiously heading back to production amid the coronavirus pandemic. I have learned that CBS drama stalwart NCIS and spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles have been assigned tentative dates to start production on their upcoming seasons under strict COVID-19 protocols — Sept. 9 for the mothership series and Sept. 3 for NCIS: LA. Both series, produced by CBS TV Studios, film in Los Angeles.
As is the case with any attempts to restart production during the pandemic, the dates are not set in stone and might easily be pushed as conditions related to the spread of the coronavirus change daily.
I hear two other CBS TV Studios drama series for CBS, Bull, which films in New York, and Magnum P.I., which shoots in Hawaii, also have been given a green light to start production but have not received tentative start dates yet. Early COVID-19 epicenter New York City has seen its new cases and hospitalizations drop significantly over the last couple of months, leading to the reopening of the city’s film and TV production business. With strong travel restrictions, including mandatory self-quarantines for visitors, Hawaii had been able to keep the outbreak under control though the state’s number of infections have been on the rise lately.
If the four dramas, NCIS, NCIS: LA, Bull and Magnum P.I., are able to start filming their new seasons in early-to-mid September, that would be good news for CBS, which bet on a regular fall schedule with the caveat that likely a large portion of the shows would not launch during the traditional premiere week in late September.
CBS already has The Amazing Race in the can and drama S.W.A.T. from Sony TV as a leading studio, last week became the first broadcast scripted series to resume production. Big Brother started a month late this year because of COVID-19 and will bleed into the fall, along with the upcoming second season of Love Island, giving the network breathing room on the schedule for series that may come in later in the fall.
I hear CBS’ two comedy series from CBS TV Studios, The Neighborhood and The Unicorn, would likely be in the next batch to get a green light and have been eying late-August-early-September potential start dates.
I hear the CBS comedy series from Warner Bros. TV, Young Sheldon, Mom, Bob Hearts Abishola and newcomer B Positive — all produced by Chuck Lorre — are currently looking at a possible mid-September start, while FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, along with other Dick Wolf/Universal TV New York-based drama series, have been exploring late-September-early October restarts.
All these timeframes are fluid and subject to change. But even if half of the tentative plans pan out, CBS should be able to roll out a significant portion of its fall lineup by November.
David Robb contributed to this story.