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Why Kelly Kahl Believes ‘FBI’ Franchise Can Be CBS’ Next ‘NCIS’ or ‘CSI’

TCA 2019: Network’s entertainment president tells TheWrap spinoff won’t feature actors from flagship series

Can “FBI,” CBS’s rookie procedural drama from Dick Wolf, be the network’s next franchise in the same vein as “NCIS” or “CSI”?

That’s exactly what CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl is hoping for, and points out that both CBS and Wolf have a very successful history of turning one series into a multi-series franchise.

“When Dick says he wants to talk to you about a brand extension you listen,” Kahl told TheWrap during the television critics association press tour on Wednesday. “He had a terrific pitch on how to expand the profile of the show, and it wasn’t just ‘Hey we’re doing ‘FBI 2.'”

On Tuesday, TheWrap reported that CBS was developing a spinoff of “FBI” called “FBI: Most Wanted.” The potential series will get a backdoor pilot during an upcoming episode of “FBI” this spring. The spinoff is centered around the division of the FBI tasked with tracking and capturing the notorious criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Kahl confirmed to TheWrap that “Most Wanted” will not feature any of the “FBI” cast, including stars Missy Peregrym or Zeeko Zaki.

“It was a new franchise with a new idea,” Kahl continued. “Still kind of within that ‘FBI’ framework.”

CBS turned “CSI” into “CSI: New York” and “CSI: Miami” and short-lived “CSI: Cyber,” and spun off “NCIS” twice with “Los Angeles” and “New Orleans” versions. “As we’ve seen in the past from ‘NCIS’ and ‘CSI,’ the best spinoffs are when you can create something very distinct from the mothership. That’s what he’s pitching,” Kahl added.

Wolf, primarily with NBC, has very successfully made a habit of turning one show into three. He currently has three dramas in the “Chicago” franchise — “Chicago Fire” “Chicago Med” and “Chicago PD” — the latter two of which were spawned from “Chicago Fire.” And he famously has had a version, usually multiple, of “Law & Order” on the air, including the upcoming “Law & Order: Hate Crimes Unit,” that will debut next season.

“Most Wanted” was given a series commitment, which means that CBS would have to pay out a large sum to Wolf and Universal TV if the series is not picked up. Wolf will write the script with Rene Balcer, with Arthur W. Forney and Peter Jankowski serving as executive producers. Fred Berner will direct. As with “FBI,” the spinoff will be a co-production between Universal Television and CBS Television Studios.