The CW Holds New and Returning Series for January Launch, Sets Corona-Proof Fall Schedule

Its typical fourth-quarter launch will consist of acquisitions including 'Tell Me a Story' and 'Swamp Thing' — as well as the final seven episodes of 'Supernatural.'
Sergei Bachlakov/The CW
'The Flash'

The CW, like Fox, has largely corona-proofed its fall schedule.  

The younger-skewing broadcast network is delaying the launch of nearly all of its new and returning shows for January — a strategy many industry insiders predicted could occur amid the near industrywide production shutdown.

With the delay of 10 scripted originals for January — and another seven for a "midseason" that could be anywhere from April to June 2021 — Mark Pedowitz's network will turn to acquired series, including Swamp Thing and Tell Me a Story to program in the fourth quarter. The CW's traditional "Premiere Week" launches in October, though this is an atypical year and it's unclear if that, too, could be delayed. Supernatural will be the lone series that needs to return to production to launch in the fourth quarter, as it has seven remaining episodes of its final season yet to air, two of which still need to be filmed.

Filling the network's fourth-quarter slate are episodes of the summer unscripted series Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Penn & Teller: Fool Us and World's Funniest Animals; CW Seed transfer Two Sentence Horror Stories; and foreign acquisitions Dead Pixels, Coroner and The Outpost. 

For the January launch — which The CW is dubbing the official launch of its "new season" — the network's schedule remains largely as is. Rookie Superman & Lois will launch behind The Flash on Tuesdays (taking over Arrow's slot) and Jared Padalecki's updated Walker takes over for the final season of Supernatural at 8 p.m. The CW will launch a night of unscripted series on Fridays in January with even more episodes of Penn & Teller and Whose Line, with Charmed moving to Sundays behind Batwoman and taking over the slot previously held by Supergirl. The new season of Supergirl will be held for whenever midseason 2021 is for The CW and will film after star Melissa Benoist returns from maternity leave.

Set to join Supergirl come "midseason" 2021 are rookies Kung Fu and The Republic of Sarah as well as returning series Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, In the Dark and Roswell, New Mexico. While Katy Keene is not currently anywhere on the network's schedule, a decision on the Riverdale offshoot has yet to be determined and the Greg Berlanti-produced series remains in contention. Katy Keene, Pedowitz said, will have a decision after the network is able to weigh full-season stacking rights on its ad-supported platforms and how it does on forthcoming SVOD service HBO Max. 

"As we manage the current crisis, we've developed a methodical programming strategy for this year and well into next that we believe works for The CW, our advertisers, affiliates and audience, while keeping the health and safety of our productions and creative partners front of mind," said Pedowitz, The CW's CEO, in calling the strategy a "proactive strategic decision."

With its January scripted launch, The CW largely avoids having to worry about rushing back into production during the summer. Given the current state of the world, it's unclear when — or how — production will return. Still, the new schedule does come with its share of other questions. It's unclear how many episodes the 10 programs earmarked for a January launch will have, though some are expected to stretch into the summer, should The CW be able to air many uninterrupted. With seven others on the bench for midseason, it's also yet to be determined how far into the summer the network's "midseason" schedule will go. If everything goes back to pre-pandemic normal, the 2021-22 season could potentially return to its traditional in October launch.

Pedowitz, in a conference call with reporters Thursday, said he has had conversations with studios Warner Bros. TV and CBS TV Studios and that all parties hoped to resume production "somewhere in September" with new safety protocols in place in order to make January launches. He noted Supernatural will have to start in late summer or early fall to make its fourth-quarter air date and, should that not be possible, all parties involved will reschedule the episodes. "Everybody … wants to end 15 years the right way," he said. "We'll wait it out. We are very much attached to this."

Should production be unable to resume later this year, Pedowitz said the network would continue to look at acquisitions and other originals that U.S. viewers had largely not seen. The exec also noted that episodes that were unable to be produced as part of this current season will be incorporated into the 2021 orders. The network topper also noted that the annual Arrow-verse crossover this season would be trimmed down to feature only two shows — Batwoman and Superman & Lois — with it expected to air in either late Q1 or Q2.

The network's fall strategy is similar to Fox, which announced its schedule earlier this week. The Charlie Collier-led broadcaster acquired Bad Boys spinoff L.A.'s Finest to air in the fall alongside the dramas Next and Filthy Rich. The latter two shows were picked up a year ago and are being held over from summer. Of Fox's fall programming lineup, only the new season of reality competition series The Masked Singer will need to find a way to be filmed.

Using acquired series and summer holdovers is but one of the strategies broadcasters had been expected to use to work around production that has been halted amid the novel coronavirus. Film and TV production was stopped in mid-March amid the global pandemic. Discussions among multiple guilds have been underway for weeks to determine safety protocols for how and possibly when filming could resume.

Broadcast networks have been the most directly affected by the shutdown as many scripted comedies and dramas were unable to complete work on their current seasons. The CW opted to continue forward with the final season of The 100 and Roswell, DC Universe import Stargirl, acquisitions Burden of Truth and Bulletproof as well as unscripted series Masters of Illusion this summer. That created the need for additional acquired series to air in the fourth quarter as the network this week picked up linear rights to canceled CBS All Access anthology Tell Me a Story and DC Universe's Swamp Thing as well as foreign acquisitions Dead Pixels and Coroner.

Here's a look at The CW's fall schedule followed by its January 2021 plan. Specific premiere dates will be announced later.

FOURTH QUARTER

Monday
8 p.m.: Whose Line Is It Anyway?
8:30 p.m.: Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9 p.m.: Penn & Teller: Fool Us

Tuesday
8 p.m.: Swamp Thing
9 p.m.: Tell Me a Story

Wednesday
8 p.m.: Two Sentence Horror Stories
8:30 p.m.: Dead Pixels
9 p.m. Coroner

Thursday
8 p.m.: Supernatural
9 p.m.: The Outpost

Friday
8 p.m.: World’s Funniest Animals
8:30 p.m.: World’s Funniest Animals
9 p.m.: Penn & Teller: Fool Us (encores)

Sunday
8 p.m.: Masters of Illusion
8:30 p.m.: Masters of Illusion
9 p.m.: Pandora

JANUARY

Monday
8 p.m.: All American
9 p.m.: Black Lightning

Tuesday
8 p.m.: The Flash
9 p.m.: Superman & Lois  

Wednesday
8 p.m.: Riverdale
9 p.m.: Nancy Drew

Thursday
8 p.m.: Walker 
9 p.m.: Legacies

Friday
8 p.m.: Penn & Teller: Fool Us
9 p.m.: Whose Line Is It Anyway? 
9:30 p.m.: Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Sunday
8 p.m.: Batwoman
9 p.m.: Charmed