NBC Plots Business as Usual "Fall" Schedule

Law and Order - SVU - Chris Meloni - Photofest still - H 2020

NBC is following CBS' lead when it comes to setting its fall schedule.

The network on Tuesday revealed a business-as-usual approach to the start of its 2020-21 broadcast season, though it stopped short of noting it would launch during the traditional Premiere Week in September. Additionally, NBC has committed to funding an additional diverse writer for each of its 2020-21 scripted series as it looks to improve diversity behind the scenes.

While production has been given the green light to resume filming in various regions in the U.S. and abroad amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, there is no clear path forward domestically as the guilds and studios continue to hammer out new safety protocols. With the pandemic top of mind and a return-to-work date still unclear, NBC's schedule is designed to best appeal to advertisers. Fox and The CW, for their part, designed "corona-proof" fall schedules that comprise "gently used" programming that debuted elsewhere like Spectrum import L.A.'s Finest and DC Universe's Swamp Thing, respectively. This allows both networks the time to return to work and still make 2021 premieres, provided a second wave of the coronavirus doesn't derail production again.

NBC's approach, like CBS', is to effectively crossi its fingers that filming can begin soon to launch programs sometime in the fall. CBS, for example, expects to stagger the returns of its scripted originals based on when filming for the respective programs can return. NBC, which declined to put network chairman Paul Telegdy on the phone to address their schedule, is effectively following the same playbook.

In terms of the lineup, NBC again is stressing its stability. NBC is shaking up its Thursday lineup and reducing its two-hour comedy block to an hour with Superstore leading into a fall return of former midseason debut Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Law & Order: SVU moves to 9 p.m., with the Chris Meloni SVU spinoff Law & Order: Organized Crime taking over the flagship's former 10 p.m. slot.

On the bench for midseason are Ted Danson's Mr. Mayor, Kenan Thompson's The Kenan Show (which was picked up to series a year ago and is being redeveloped), Dwayne Johnson comedy Young Rock, and the returns of Good Girls and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. Unscripted series Ellen's Game of Games, That's My Jam, Small Fortune and True Story will also be held for later. 

In terms of development, all 12 of NBC's pilots are still in contention. Decisions have yet to be made on any of them because production was forced to shut down amid the novel coronavirus.

"Thanks to the ingenuity of our creative teams and our partner studios, NBC has assembled a remarkably stable schedule at a time when stability is called for,” Telegdy said in a statement Tuesday. “With the reopening of the Universal lot for select productions this week, we are confident that our schedule will premiere intact later this fall. We design shows for longevity and this schedule remains a powerful propulsive force for shows to start here and carry on entertaining across generations.”

On the diversity front, NBC is funding an additional writer for every scripted series' writers room in the 2020-21 season. Each returning show will also participate in the third annual Female Forward Emerging Director Program or Alternative Directors Program.

"Our brand has always championed positive programming, and the events of this year have allowed us the time to take pause, examine our business with a new lens and take some immediate action," Telegdy said in a statement. "Since many of our writers rooms have not yet opened, we are taking this opportunity to offer all of this season’s showrunners the chance to enrich their team with an additional diverse writer at any level. It is not the solution by any means, but it is something we can do right now to take a positive step."

Here's NBC's "fall" schedule. (Peacock streaming deals designated with *; new shows in all caps.)

8-10 p.m.: The Voice
10-11 p.m.: Manifest*

8-9 p.m.: The Voice
9-10 p.m.: This Is Us*
10-11 p.m.: New Amsterdam*

8-9 p.m.: Chicago Med*
9-10 p.m.: Chicago Fire*
10-11 p.m.: Chicago P.D.*

8-8:30 p.m.: Superstore*
8:30-9 p.m.: Brooklyn Nine-Nine
9-10 p.m.: Law & Order: SVU*

8-9 p.m.: The Blacklist*
9-11 p.m.: Dateline NBC*

8-10 p.m.: Dateline Saturday Night Mystery*
10-11 p.m.: Saturday Night Live* (encores)

7-8:20 p.m.: Football Night in America
8:20-11 p.m.: NBC Sunday Night Football