See you (in person?) next year
Another Upfront Week (plus a few days) has come and gone. While the broadcast TV schedule mostly resembled a pre-COVID year (thought not for The CW, which skipped the event entirely in favor of a single press call on Tuesday), we were all still stuck in our t-shirts and sweatpants sitting in front of our computer which we’ve done for the past 16 months.
During the 2021 event, we found out that broadcast TV really loves its crime procedurals (as does Dick Wolf’s bank account), streaming is now welcomed in as a begrudging roommate and Jimmy Kimmel can provide more laughs in seven minutes than NBC will this fall.
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Below, here are TheWrap’s 10 main takeaways from the (virtual) dog and pony show.
1. Streaming Wants Ad Dollars, Too
After years of being the enemy, streaming is now seen as a panacea for legacy media. That was never more clear during this year’s upfronts. All week long, individual networks were de-emphasized as execs touted an entire distribution portfolio that included the parent company’s streaming options. Perhaps the best metaphor for broadcast’s standing in a streaming-dominated world is that Disney has the same executive, Craig Erwich, in charge of programming both ABC and Hulu.
Fox spent time touting Tubi, while ViacomCBS didn’t even bother to pitch any new programming for CBS like its newest “NCIS” or “CSI” revival. Instead, the company touted the full ViacomCBS offering as some kind of agnostic platform.
It’s a streaming world now, broadcast TV is just living in it.
2. The Future Is Past Franchises
From “The Wonder Years” to “CSI,” every network is looking to get into the franchise game this season, with many turning to past hits in search of future success. ABC picked up a reboot of the 1960s-set “Wonder Years” from Lee Daniels and original star Fred Savage. Fox has a revival of “Fantasy Island” anchored by “Devious Maids” alum Roselyn Sanchez. NBC is expanding the “Law & Order” universe again with “For the Defense,” and CBS has “CSI: Vegas” set to air alongside its own Dick Wolf franchise, “FBI” (which is, of course, getting another spinoff.)
3. Dick Wolf Will Never Retire
The Social Security full retirement age in the United States is 66. But Dick Wolf, the 74-year-old mastermind “Law & Order” creator and modern-day godfather of the TV procedural, will have three straight nights of full primetime-programming blocks on broadcast this coming fall. That is nine straight hours of primetime television across CBS and NBC.
Tuesdays on CBS, Wolf has an entire night dedicated to his “FBI” franchise. Wednesdays is “One Chicago” night on NBC. On Thursdays, Wolf’s “Law & Order” lineup will occupy the entirety of NBC primetime.
4. NBC Is Not Joking Around This Fall
NBC has, *checks notes*, zero comedies on its schedule this fall. We hope you like drama — especially procedurals (see above). If not, there’s always “The Voice.”
Check back with NBC for your comedy fix midseason. And definitely do not miss the final season of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in late summer.
5. Set Your DVRs
New shows hitting the air this fall include ABC’s “Wonder Years” reboot, the high-concept drama “La Brea” at NBC, the Fox singing competition “Alter Ego” and new CBS spinoffs “FBI: International,” “CSI: Vegas” and “NCIS: Hawaii.”
And then there are the tried-and-true returning programs. Also Fox’s “The Great North.”
Find the fall schedule for each of the broadcast networks here.
6. Nobody Told Jason?
The biggest news of last week had nothing to the with the Upfronts when Discovery and WarnerMedia shocked everyone by announcing their intention to partner up to take on Netflix and Disney. As part of that deal, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who has only been on the job for a year, appears to be heading for an early exit. That made his appearances during WarnerMedia’s upfront last Wednesday, including the brief mention of the impending merger, pretty awkward.
Though these virtual pretaped presentations were done well before last Monday’s news, it certainly didn’t make it any less uncomfortable to hear Kilar spout his excitement over WarnerMedia’s future, considering it likely doesn’t include him.
7. Fox Is Launching an NFT Company
When it launches next season, Dan Harmon’s first broadcast series since “Community,” the animated “Krapopolis,” will be the “first-ever animated series curated entirely on the blockchain.” Whatever that means. In conjunction with the show, Fox will also launch its own NFT company, Blockchain Creative Labs, which will “create, sell and manage NFTs, tokens and digital goods” related to the show.
Fox boss Charlie Collier was scant on details regarding the new venture during his presentation, but “Krapopolis” is described as a series set in Ancient Greece, which is centered on “a flawed family of humans, gods and monsters that tries to run one of the world’s first cities without killing each other.”
8. To the Ones We’ve Lost
Every upfront season comes with a few casualties, and 2021 saw its fair share. “Grey’s Anatomy” escaped cancellation but showrunner Krista Vernoff’s other ABC drama, the Erin Brockovich-inspired “Rebel,” didn’t make the cut. Fox cut “Prodigal Son” after two seasons and CBS axed “MacGyver” and “All Rise.” The CW’s DC universe lost “Black Lightning” and “Supergirl” to pre-planned endings, while the U.K. import “Bulletproof” was canceled overseas amid allegations of misconduct against star Noel Clarke.
A few series are still awaiting decisions from their respective networks — including NBC’s “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and “Good Girls” and Fox’s seasonal family drama “The Moodys.”
9. And the New Shows Coming
Filling the void left by the canceled and ending shows are a few big swings like NBC’s time-travel drama “La Brea,” Fox’s show-within-a-show show “The Big Leap” and Ava DuVernay’s multiverse-hopping teen superhero drama “Naomi.”
Other new titles hitting the broadcast schedule next season include the bowling comedy “Smallwood” and the medical drama “Good Sam” at CBS; “The Cleaning Lady,” “Our Kind of People,” “Pivoting” and “Welcome to Flatch” at Fox; “Queens” and “Women of the Movement” at ABC; and “All American: Homecoming” at The CW.
See the full list of new, returning and canceled series here.
10. The CW Changes Every Damn Thing (Except Thursdays)
The youngest-skewing broadcast network was the last to reveal its fall lineup — and it also outdid its Big 4 competition in terms of shaking things up.
The CW, which will be programming seven nights a week for first time ever after adding Saturday, has shifted shows like “Riverdale,” “Batwoman,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” and “Nancy Drew” off nights they’ve been on for years, while filling newly opened slots with freshman series, including the “Legends of the Hidden Temple” reboot and “4400.” And there are more changes to come at midseason, when the network will debut Ava DuVernay’s “Naomi” and a spinoff of “All American.”
The only night that went untouched is Thursday, the home of “Walker” and “Legacies.”
Jennifer Maas contributed to this report.