The upfronts isn’t about network fall schedules anymore. It’s about what major media companies can offer
When I started writing this blog in 2006, radio was the dying medium and television was the strong suit. Shows were still drawing 20 million viewers a week and had buzzworthy properties such as The Sopranos and American Idol.
In 2022, the narrative has certainly flipped on its head – who’d thought radio would have the good news last week while television stumbled on the stage. Given the struggles of linear TV – and now streaming thanks to Netflix’s sudden fall from coolness, it’s the tube who now has the “dying medium” tag.
So came the upfronts where the broadcast networks usually announce their new shows to advertisers in New York. But it was clear something has changed this year – the so-called “network” upfronts isn’t about the broadcast networks’ fall schedules anymore. It was about what big media companies can offer.
That’s why we saw a dumb Real Housewives dance number at NBCUniversal’s presentation, or ABC owner Disney talking about its streaming properties.
Fox even declined to release a fall schedule.
It’s clear the networks – and television in general, are in cutback mode – meaning fewer new series, less risk-taking, and less aggressive scheduling in an era where streaming has become predominant in a crummy economy. This fall, only seven new series are scheduled to debut across five networks – perhaps the fewest in history.
The disinvestment in primetime is also notable to affiliates, who are now relying on their local news and programming provided from their station groups to fill airtime as syndicated shows remains expensive and prime-time shows outside of sports can now be found anywhere as local station execs stayed away from the upfronts since these presentations are now really useless to them. News is now the future as local newscasts on ABC 7 and WGN-TV remain strong, even outdrawing the broadcast networks’ prime-time fare at times. Scripted police dramas and unscripted programming are finding it hard to compete with the real-life freak show nature of our city on the local news.
With this mind for the second straight year, T Dog Media offers a cliff’s notes version for what’s on tap this fall because there is really no point in devoting a lot of time and analysis to network prime-time programming nobody really cares about anymore except for the die-hardest of TV nerds.
ABC: ABC’s lineup is mostly intact, but with some changes- Bachelor in Paradise and The Good Doctor fills Mondays when the network isn’t airing Monday Night Football with another episode of Paradise on Tuesdays leading into new drama The Rookie: Feds, obviously ABC’s hope to clone NBC and CBS in the procedural franchise department. Wednesday has the wonderful Abbott Elementary and Big Sky on a new night, but the rest of the schedule remains unchanged. Thursdays sees new drama Alaska and Celebrity Jeopardy! is added to Sundays, paired with Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.
The network didn’t cancel any scripted programs although it pulled the plug on several prime-time game shows last month and moved Dancing With The Stars to Disney Plus. Not on the fall schedule is The Wonder Years, which is expected back midseason.
CBS: With the cancellation of several Thursday sitcoms, CBS is returning to a mostly drama Thursday night with new drama So Help Me Todd, paired with CSI: Vegas on the front end and Young Sheldon and Ghosts behind them. CBS also has a new Friday show, the Emergency!-like Fire Country in between SWAT and Blue Bloods.
Mondays and Tuesdays remain unchanged, while CBS goes all-in on an all-reality TV night on Wednesdays with Survivor, The Amazing Race, and The Real Love Boat, a reality TV show which is likely closer to the syndicated 2001-03 show Shipmates than the classic ABC dramedy. Will there be any celebrity guest stars?
Sundays has yet another New York-based cop show called East New York in between The Equalizer (another New York based cop show) and NCIS: Los Angeles, which is at least based in…never mind.
Of note, CBS did not pick up any comedy pilots leaving the network with just four comedies on the entire schedule – the fewest in the network’s history as B Positive, The United States of Al, and How We Roll were canceled, as was drama Good Sam.
NBC: There isn’t really anything much*new* given two new projects are reboots of hit 1980s shows on the network – Night Court (being held until midseason) and Quantum Leap, slated to air after The Voice on Mondays.
Tuesdays will have another episode of The Voice leading into La Brea and New Amsterdam. Wednesdays and Thursdays remain unchanged with Dick Wolf shows. Fridays have College Bowl and in November home to Young Rock and a new George Lopez comedy. Sundays have Sunday Night Football with the worst episode of any TV show of the entire season as far as Chicagoans are concerned coming Sept. 19 with the Chicago NFL Lakefront Team’s annual stomping by Green Bay. At least it’s earlier this year.
CW: A dramatically different schedule as the network’s future ownership remaining unanswered as no one knows if Nexstar plans to buy The CW as rumors have been swirling since January. The longer this drags out, the less likely the sale would take place. With that said, The CW is scaling back on scripted and superhero shows, eliminating the genre on Fridays and Saturdays with low-cost unscripted fare – the former has Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Whose Line Is It Anyway while the latter has Magic With The Stars and World’s Funniest Animals. Sundays are filled with two Canadian dramas, Family Law (not related to the 1999 CBS drama) and Coroner.
Mondays has All American and fellow spinoff Homecoming; Tuesdays has new dramas The Winchesters and Professionals; Wednesdays has Stargirl and Kung Fu; and Thursdays have Walker and spinoff Walker Independence. Midseason entries include new dramas Gotham Knights and Recipe For Disaster, and returning favorites The Flash, Nancy Drew, Superman & Lois, and the final season of Riverdale – which should have ended years ago.
As mentioned before, The CW canceled nine shows on May 12; to see the list, click here.
Fox: As mentioned before, Fox declined to release a schedule but much of it is expected to remain intact anyway. The Sunday animated block isn’t going anywhere while 9-1-1 and The Masked Singer will maintain their spots. Announced programming for next season include animated Grimsburg and Krapopolis and a new Gordon Ramsey show set to debut after the Super Bowl. Also on tap is Monarch, a drama similar to Empire but set in the world of country music.