Fewer new shows reflect today’s reality of network television
With television viewership shifting to streaming preferences, it seems a “fall schedule” for linear TV networks seems antiquated, especially when viewers are watching shows on their own schedules. Plus, the pandemic has all but canned the in-person upfronts experience.
But old habits are hard to break, and despite plunging ratings, the industry is plowing ahead with a 2021-22 fall schedule with hopes the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror and things get back to some kind of normalcy.
There is less emphasis on the fall schedule as the broadcast networks are looking to spread premieres of new shows year-round, so there isn’t as many freshmen programs as there were in years past. In fact, NBC and Fox have opted not to premiere any comedies this fall, a first.
One big winner was Dick Wolf, whose NBC and CBS are devoting entire nights to his FBI and Law And Order franchises, respectively. Wolf now has nine hours over three nights (including the Chicago trifecta on Wednesdays on NBC).
Reflecting these trends, it only makes sense not to devote so much space to the fall TV season, as this site has done in the past. So here’s a quick rundown of the fall 2021 schedule, before Dick Wolf takes over all five networks’ schedules in the fall of 2025:
ABC: The network has just two new shows – drama Queens and the reboot of the 1988-93 sitcom The Wonder Years with a Black cast, set in the same time frame the original was but now set in Montgomery, Ala. ABC’s unscripted slate consists of old standbys Dancing With The Stars, Shark Tank, and The Bachelorette, joining game shows Supermarket Sweep and Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, who moves to Sunday perhaps to distance itself from the weeknight version, which airs on numerous ABC stations (including ABC 7 here.)
Canceled are American Housewives, Call Your Mother, For Life, Rebel, and Mixed-ish. Black-ish is returning next spring for a limited run of six episodes before ending its run.
CBS: The big news here is the network is devoting an entire night of Dick Wolf’s FBI with the original, then new series FBI: International, and FBI: Most Wanted, all on Tuesdays (the franchise is not related to the Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. series The F.B.I. or its sequel, Today’s F.B.I.)
The Equalizer reboot with Queen Latifah made the fall schedule and remains on Sunday nights but now must complete against Celebrity Wheel and Sunday Night Football. Another midseason series (The United States of Al) retains its Thursday slot after Young Sheldon.
Survivor is back after a year layoff returning to Wednesday nights, and leads into last season’s placeholder Tough As Nails. Rounding up Wednesdays is the return of CSI, this time known as CSI: Vegas.
New series include yet another new NCIS show (Hawai’i), airing on Monday nights out of the original NCIS, who moves off of Tuesday after 17 seasons. Taking over the Thursday night time slot the now-retired Mom occupied last season is new sitcom Ghosts.
Done are NCIS: New Orleans, The Unicorn, All Rise, and McGyver. Dramas Evil and SEAL Team are moving to sister streaming service Paramount+.
Fox: Three new series are coming this fall – Our Kind Of People on Tuesdays and The Big Leap on Mondays and Alter Ego on Wednesdays. The rest of the schedule remains unchanged, with Thursday Night Football heading into its final season before becoming exclusive to Amazon.
Even though Fox has no live-action sitcoms on its lineup this fall, it did renew Blossom’s Cat Cafe (aka Call Me Kat) for midseason and of course, its longtime Sunday night animation lineup.
As mentioned here earlier, Fox passed on a third season of Bless The Harts. Last Man Standing is also departing, announced a year ago. Canceled was Prodigal Son, Filthy Rich, and Next, which was canceled last fall.
NBC: A lot was made about NBC not having comedies on its fall lineup for the first time since the Stone Age. However, NBC renewed Young Rock and Mr. Mayor for next season, so the schedule won’t be totally devoid of laughs (and besides, you have the Bears’ yearly spanking on SNF by the Packers.)
Like CBS with FBI, NBC decided to brand a night of programming with Law & Order entirely taking over Thursdays, marking the first time since the 1980-81 season the network won’t have any comedies on the night, the one-time home of “Must-See TV”. The new series leading off the night is Law & Order: For The Defense, long-running SVU, and sophomore drama Organized Crime.
Other new series are Ordinary Joe on Mondays and La Brea on Tuesdays. Of note, NBC dropped vintage SNL on Saturdays for more Dateline. Superstore ended its run last month.
The CW: As reported here a few weeks ago, The CW is adding programming on Saturdays, achieving the impossible dream of the fifth network with a full-week prime-time schedule.
Ok, after you’re done laughing with what I just wrote, let’s look at what they have in store – two new dramas with a stateside remake of Killer Camp on Sundays and The 4400 reboot on Tuesdays. Leading into Camp is The CW’s first game shows in years, a reboot of former Nickelodeon game show Legends Of The Hidden Temple (sorry, no slime is involved and this version features adults competing.)
Of note is the out-of-gas Riverdale moving to Tuesday nights, after The Flash.
As Expected, The CW is filling their new Saturday night lineup with low-cost series Whose Line Is It Anyway and World’s Funniest Animals.
The CW no longer cancels shows, but departing is Black Lightning.
To see the full seven night schedule for all broadcast networks, click here.