It’s going to feel a lot like 2005 on the Big 4 this fall, and Saturday nights are all right for programming on the CW.
The former is a flashback from the George W. Bush era, when NCIS, CSI and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit all held dominant spots in the primetime lineups. And CBS and NBC are hoping history repeats itself in 2021 with the latest iterations of those franchises hitting the small screen this year, with some original cast members in tow.
Shuffling the deck with long-running Riverdale moving to Tuesdays to partner with The Flash and other scheduling sleight of hands, the CW’s big play is tackling Saturday nights with originals for the first time. How much traction a double dose of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and World’s Funniest Animals delivers probably needs to be viewed in the larger context of the Mark Pedowitz-run channel also going unscripted on Sundays this fall for a full weekend theme.
Yes, there are actually truly new shows this upcoming season like ABC girl-band drama Queens, the CW’s Legends of the Hidden Temple and Killer Camp, Fox’s musical competition show Alter Ego, NBC’s La Brea and CBS’ Ghosts. Remarkably, the past home of The Office, Friends and Seinfeld has zero sitcoms on the schedule for the fall — and we’ll see how that works out.
Still, bringing in the big crowds and big bucks, there’s a lot of NFL as usual. The gridiron is on Fox on Thursdays (for now), Saturdays on ABC — the NCAA kind — and of course, the big kahuna of Sunday Night Football on NBC. Now, football is king and news is good(ish), but in these fractured audience times, tried and true is where the broadcast drama is.
Which means there is a heck of a lot of Dick Wolf, with the fabled producer planting stakes in three separate nights of TV over two different networks.
In fact, CBS on Tuesdays and NBC on Wednesdays have literally nothing on but Wolfworld franchises. The ViacomCBS-owned net has FBI, followed by newbie FBI: International and FBI: Most Wanted back-to-back-to-back. The Comcast-owned net has Law & Order: SVU and then a second season of Law & Order: Organized Crime, with OG SVU actor Christopher Meloni back in his Elliot Stabler role. Update: Its planned spinoff Law & Order: For the Defense originally was set for 8 p.m. Thursdays, but the project is not moving forward.
In that vein, ABC is looking back to The Wonder Years for its own throwback hopes. Executive produced by Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, Saladin K. Patterson and original cast member Fred Savage — who helmed the pilot — and narrated by Don Cheadle, this version of the Emmy- and Peabody-winning show set in the late 1960s focuses on a middle-class Black family in Montgomery, AL.
CBS also is staying in the Chuck Lorre business with more Young Sheldon, Bob ❤️ Abishola, United States of Al and B Positive. Additionally, the network is giving SEAL Team’s fifth season a high-profile four-episode stint on Sunday nights before shifting David Boreanaz and crew over to Paramount+ to increase the original inventory and allure of the burgeoning streamer. The second season of Evil also will be housed on Paramount+ and maybe Silence of the Lambs sequel of sorts Clarice too.
Meanwhile, in a distinct failure of imagination but firm belief in the bottom line, the ever-expanding House of Redstone also has NCIS: Hawaiʻi and CSI: Vegas, with the latter seeing William Peterson’s Gil Grissom back in the lab. The logic is clear, as CBS Entertainment boss Kelly Kahl told Deadline’s Pete White: “In my mind, franchises hit the trifecta: They have terrific live viewing, they have significant delayed viewing, and they also do very well on streaming.”
That’s a bingo!
With that, take a look at the franchise-filled fall TV grid below:
See ya midseason.