The COVID-19 pandemic upended the broadcast networks’ fall TV season this year, with many returning favorites delayed until November while some shows wait until 2021 to return.
Early this summer, Fox and The CW set pandemic-proof fall schedules, but in June, ABC, CBS and NBC released optimistic fall schedules that had their regular series — and a few newcomers — back with original episodes. That’s not happening right away so the Big Three have adjusted their fall plans.
The CW punted its usual October premieres to January, announcing a fourth-quarter schedule made up of shows that normally air in summer — “The Outpost” (9 p.m. Oct. 8), “Pandora” (8 p.m. Oct. 4) — and newly acquired foreign imports, including the Patrick Dempsey-starring international thriller “Devils” (8 p.m. Oct. 7).
“There is a fair amount of product out there,” The CW CEO Mark Pedowitz says about the availability of foreign programs American networks can lease. “You have to be careful that what you acquire fits your brand.”
The CW is also one of several networks to import “gently used” programming from elsewhere with the addition of “Swamp Thing” (8 p.m. Oct. 6), previously seen on subscription streamer DC Universe.
“Supernatural” (8 p.m. Oct. 8), which returned to production on its final few episodes last month in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the only returning in-season series The CW will air this fall.
Fox held back two scripted series it originally planned to premiere in the spring, Kim Cattrall-starring soap “Filthy Rich” (9 p.m. Sept. 21) and artificial intelligence thriller “Next” (9 p.m. Oct. 6).
The network will air its own “gently used” shows: “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” (8 p.m. Sept. 22) from National Geographic Channel, and season one of “L.A.’s Finest” (8 p.m. Sept. 21), a police procedural from Spectrum Originals that was previously only available to Spectrum cable subscribers.
Fox’s Sunday-night block of animated comedies will return with new episodes Sept. 27 and network execs are holding their breath that NFL games will be played for the sake of its Thursday Night Football plans (4:30 p.m. Oct. 8). (New seasons of “MasterChef Junior” and “Beat Shazam,” completed before the pandemic shutdown, are among the backup series waiting in the wings.)
Reality competition hit “The Masked Singer,” which offers a preview Sunday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m., is back on Wednesday nights starting Sept. 23, and is joined by the new “I Can See Your Voice” (9 p.m.), featuring contestants who try to determine if a mystery guest is a good or bad singer without hearing the person sing.
ABC’s announced plans include a new season of “Dancing with the Stars” (8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14) and, beginning Sept. 24, game shows “Celebrity Family Feud” (8 p.m.), “Press Your Luck” (9 p.m.) and “Match Game” (10 p.m.) in place of a Thursday-night drama block that usually includes Seattle-set “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Station 19.”
Comedies “The Goldbergs” and “The Conners” (now without a studio audience as a COVID-19 safety precaution) resumed production in August and will return at 8 and 9 p.m., respectively, on Oct. 21. “Black-ish” will air special back-to-back episodes at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Oct.4 and will resume airing weekly at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 21. “American Housewife” returns at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 28.
Next month, ABC brings back “The Bachelorette” (8 p.m. Oct. 13), filmed under COVID-19 safety guidelines at a Palm Springs, California, resort, and “Shark Tank” (8 p.m. Oct. 16), filmed in a “quarantine bubble” at a Las Vegas hotel.
On Oct. 18, a reboot of game show “Supermarket Sweep” (8 p.m. Sundays) hosted by Leslie Jones debuts alongside new episodes of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (7 p.m.), “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (9 p.m.) and “Card Sharks” (10 p.m.)
CBS created an interim fall schedule with the expectation that some of its returning series will be back on the air in November.
New episodes for fall generally begin production by late July. This year, “S.W.A.T.” was one of the earliest to resume filming in August, but “NCIS” and “NCIS: LA” weren’t due to go before the cameras until early September. (All these shows are filming on a wing and a prayer: If someone on set gets a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, the whole crew will likely to be sent home for two weeks, further delaying when these shows make it to air.)
To compensate for these delayed starts, CBS summer series “Big Brother” and “Love Island” will linger into fall longer than usual and a new nonfiction show from “48 Hours” producers, “The FBI Declassified” (10 p.m. Oct. 13), premieres.
CBS will also air some recycled shows, including Spectrum Originals “Manhunt: Deadly Games” (10 p.m. Sept. 21), a 10-episode scripted drama about the search for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing suspect; the first season of “Star Trek: Discovery” (10 p.m. Sept. 24), borrowed from sister-streaming service CBS All Access; and back-to-back episodes from the recent fourth season of the “One Day at a Time” reboot (9 and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 12, 19 and 26) on loan from ViacomCBS-owned cable network Pop.
CBS turns its occasional summer specials “The Greatest #AtHome Videos” into a weekly series (8 p.m. Sept. 25); debuts the 10th season of “Undercover Boss” (9 p.m. Oct. 2); and runs the 32nd edition of “The Amazing Race” (9 p.m. Oct. 14), which was taped in late 2018.
NBC acquired Canadian medical drama “Transplant” (10 p.m. Tuesdays), which debuted earlier this month.
Like the other networks, NBC will rely heavily on unscripted series for the start of the season, including a reboot of “Weakest Link” (8 p.m. Sept. 29) hosted by Jane Lynch, “Dateline NBC” (10 p.m. Sept. 25), “Ellen’s Game of Games” (9 p.m. Oct. 6) and “The Voice” (8 p.m. Oct. 19).
Next month brings the debut of the new scripted, remotely produced comedy “Connecting …” (8:30 p.m. Oct. 1), about friends trying to stay close in the pandemic via video chats. It will be joined by the return of “Superstore” (8 p.m. Oct. 22).
NBC dramas begin to return with new episodes in November, including “This is Us” (9 p.m. Nov. 10), “Chicago Med” (8 p.m. Nov. 11), “Chicago Fire” (9 p.m. Nov. 11), “Chicago P.D.” (10 p.m. Nov. 11), “Law & Order: SVU” (9 p.m. Nov. 12) and “The Blacklist” (8 p.m. Nov. 13).