Squeezed by competition from streaming services (including those owned by their parent companies), the major broadcasters unveiled revised fall lineups this week largely built around the notion that sticking with the schedule you know is safer than trying a whole bunch of unproven series.
The clear embodiment of the comfort-food strategy unveiled during this week’s upfront presentations, designed to secure billions of dollars in advertising commitments for the coming season, can be seen on CBS and NBC: The former will continue airing three “FBI” shows on Tuesday, while NBC counters with a trio of “Chicago”-branded shows Wednesdays and “Law & Order” series Thursdays.
All nine of those series, incidentally, come from producer Dick Wolf, accounting for nearly 200 hours of primetime programming.
The trend extended beyond those networks to ABC, which touted a fall lineup of “unprecedented stability” with just three newcomers — “new,” in this case, the label being applied to “Celebrity Jeopardy!” and a spinoff of its cop drama “The Rookie.”
The networks’ collective play-it-safe approach prompted their comedy stars to mock them during their presentations, with an “SNL” spoof at NBCUniversal’s upfront joking about the network’s next spinoff being “Chicago H.R.,” “a two-hour Zoom about respect in the workplace.”
Similarly, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel said of NBC’s addition of “Quantum Leap” and “Night Court” revivals, “That isn’t a fall schedule. Those are the tapes you find in your dead uncle’s VCR.”
As the Hollywood Reporter noted in crunching the numbers, the networks are following a pattern that has entailed adding fewer shows in recent years, recognizing the challenges of a TV landscape filled with streaming options.
Admittedly, “more of the same” isn’t the most exciting sales pitch, and the networks’ lineups aren’t doing much to shake their dinosaur images, while streaming and premium channels gobble up much of the media oxygen.
For now, though, the networks appear content to play the tortoise to those hares, plodding along as they hope that slow and steady will keep them in the ratings race.