CBS Trims Episode Orders As Broadcast Series On All Nets Face Abbreviated Runs In COVID Impacted 2020-21 Season

Mark Harmon in 'NCIS' Monty Brinton/CBS

The coronavirus pandemic cut short the 2019-20 seasons of most broadcast series as production shut down in mid-March. Now the continuing effects from the pandemic are altering the course of the 2020-21 season, with late launches and shorter runs for scripted series.

CBS has trimmed the orders to its scripted series from CBS Studios from full-season 22 episodes to 16-18, including the NCIS franchise, Blue Bloods, Bull, The Neighborhood, SEAL Team, Magnum P.I. and Bull. (The Unicorn, which had a 13-episode initial order, will remain at 13). The network is still in conversations with outside studios, including Mom, Young Sheldon, Bob Hearts Abishola, B Positive and All Rise producer Warner Bros TV; Universal TV, which is behind the FBI franchise; and S.W.A.T.‘s Sony Pictures TV. Those series also are expected to end up producing seasons in the 16- to 18-episode range.

This is not limited to CBS. With the broadcast scripted series’ start of production staggered and delayed by the pandemic leading to late-October/November season launches, most network scripted shows will air abbreviated seasons. In addition to scheduling — the late show premieres means that networks will need fewer episodes to get through the end of the broadcast season in May — the increased cost of production also is believed to have played a role in these decisions. Implementing COVID-19 safety protocols adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to the production budget of each episode this year.

While some comedy series could get to a traditional full season order — ABC’s black-ish and Fox’s Last Man Standing, for example, are currently picked up for 21 episodes each — most drama series are expected to air 18 or fewer episodes this season.

Here are the modified 2020-21 episode orders for CBS scripted series from CBS Studios:


BULL (16)



NCIS (16)

NCIS: LA (18)



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