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CBS Unveils Fall 2021 Schedule: ‘NCIS’ Moves to Mondays, ‘FBI’ Franchise Takes Over Tuesday, ‘Survivor’ Back

CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl discusses focus on big drama brands, and move of some shows to Paramount Plus.

NCIS HAWAII CSI VEGAS GHOSTS
Courtesy of CBS

CBS is feasting on franchises this fall, unveiling a lineup with three new hour-longs — all extensions of popular Eye drama brands — and one new comedy. The new schedule boasts three different iterations of “FBI” (including newcomer “FBI: International”), three editions of “NCIS” (with the freshman “NCIS: Hawai’i” replacing the outgoing New Orleans series) and the return of the “CSI” universe, via “CSI: Vegas.”

In perhaps the biggest gambit, CBS will shift longtime Tuesday juggernaut “NCIS” from the 8 p.m. timeslot that the Mark Harmon vehicle has known since its launch in 2003 to a new home on Mondays at 9 p.m., where it will be paired with the new “NCIS Hawai’i” at 10 p.m. After talk that “NCIS” might end its run without him, Harmon signed on to return for the 19th season of the show — but the timeslot move may lead to more speculation that this is the long-running series’ swan song.

The “NCIS” leap to Monday will also allow the network to create an “FBI” roadblock on Tuesdays, with returnees “FBI” at 8 p.m. and “FBI: Most Wanted” at 10 p.m., and newcomer “FBI: International” launching in the middle.

“If you look at the proof of what does work, these franchises work,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told Variety. “And they and they work on a multitude of levels. They generally get pretty darn good live ratings, they get good delayed viewing, and they stream pretty well. That’s a win-win-win. That’s a win for viewers, that’s a win for the shows, that’s a win for the companies that own them. That’s what we’re looking for these days.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t try new things, new dramas, they don’t all have to be franchises,” he added. “But certainly, in terms of this environment and giving yourself a leg up, when you can put a show on that people perk up and recognize, that helps.”

“CSI: Vegas,” which will air on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET, is the fifth version of the once-dominant “Crime Scene Investigation” series. The original “CSI” first launched in 2000, while “CSI: Cyber” was the last edition to go off the air, in 2016.

Coincidentally, the first “CSI” launched the same year as “Survivor,” which will kick off Wednesdays as it returns to its regular 8 p.m. slot this fall with Season 41. “Survivor” has been off the air since spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has resumed shooting at its Fiji base. And although online reports have questioned whether spikes in infections in Fiji might further delay things, Kahl said the return of “Survivor” is well under way.

“They are in production and everything is going well and according to plan,” he said. “We expect to have two versions for the season.”

The return of “The Amazing Race” remains more up in the air, however. The show’s 33rd cycle was perhaps the first major U.S. production to halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when filming on the show’s Season 33 was paused at the end of February 2020. Contestants were sent home, and continue to wait for the competition to resume. “They are waiting for a significant chunk of the world to open itself up,” Kahl said. “I believe they can turn around and get out there fairly quickly. We are hoping to have this completed version by the end of the season, but there’s just a lot of things outside our control.”

In the meantime, “The Amazing Race” host Phil Keoghan is also the host and executive producer of “Tough as Nails,” which will be sandwiched between “Survivor” and “CSI: Vegas” on Wednesdays.

“CSI: Vegas” features original “CSI” cast members William Petersen and Jorja Fox; another veteran of that first series, Marg Helgenberger, had recently been on CBS’ now-canceled legal drama “All Rise.” When asked whether that frees her up to now join the “CSI” reunion, Kahl said it was too soon to tell: “That [‘All Rise’ cancellation] news just came down a day or two ago, so it hasn’t been raised. Never say never. It wasn’t really contemplated in this first run of the series, but she’s a beloved member of the CSI family obviously.”

“CSI” eventually led to “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY” and “CSI: Cyber.” Could this be the start of a new round of “CSI” companion series? “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ve going to make this thing sing first, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility,” Kahl said. “I think we’re giving the viewers what they want.”

As for CBS’ lone new comedy in the fall, “Ghosts” — based on a BBC series about the new owners of an estate and the spirits that inhabit it — has been given the plum Thursday 9 p.m. slot, surrounded by Chuck Lorre comedies “Young Sheldon,” “United States of Al” and “B Positive.”

“I am very excited about ‘Ghosts,’” Kahl said. “If you haven’t seen the BBC series, it’s critically acclaimed and it’s really funny. I think it’s the most unique thing anyone’s going to put on TV this fall in terms of comedy. It has real potential for a male/female/young/old kind of breakout hit, and that’s why we put it at nine o’clock. Every once in a while one comes along, sits up and shouts out, ‘I’m different,’ and this one feels like it.”

The Thursday comedies will be joined by “Bull” at 10 p.m. (moving from Mondays). Meanwhile, with “CSI: Vegas” taking the Wednesday 10 p.m. slot, “SWAT” moves to Fridays at 8 pm., paired with “Magnum PI” and “Blue Bloods.” But the SWAT move is temporary, as it will permanently switch to Sundays at 10 p.m. later in the fall — after “Seal Team” airs its final CBS episodes on the night.

As previously reported, “Seal Team” will premiere its fifth season on CBS this fall with four episodes on Sunday at 10 p.m. But then the show will make the jump to Paramount Plus, along with CBS’ “Evil,” which will also be moving to the streaming service — likely along with “Clarice,” once that deal is worked out.

In the case of many of these shows, corporate execs realized that although the ratings were just so-so on broadcast, they spiked in streaming. “There are scenarios where we can think a little more holistically and we can find the best home for all these shows,” Kahl said. “Some shows may play better on broadcast, some may play better on streaming. Whatever the case, when there’s loyal fans involved, being able to deliver one of their favorite shows to them is always a win.”

Also on Sundays, “The Equalizer” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” remain in their slots.

Midseason newcomers include medical drama “Good Sam,” starring Sophia Bush and Jason Isaacs; the comedy “Smallwood,” based on professional bowler Tom Smallwood’s life and starring Pete Holmes, Katie Lowes and Chi McBride; and the competition series “Come Dance with Me,” from LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell and hosted by Philip Lawrence. Besides (knock on wood) “Amazing Race,” also back will be reality show “Undercover Boss” and drama “Blood & Treasure.”

CBS has additionally ordered the event competition series “The Activist,” from Global Citizen and Deviant Media, which spotlights activists and their causes. And the Eye network is also getting back into the original movie business — at least for the holidays. The network has picked up two holiday-themed TV movies from Motion Picture Corporation of America: “A Christmas Proposal,” starring Adam Rodriguez and Jessica Camacho; and “Christmas Takes Flight.”

“There was a good business opportunity for us,” Kahl said of the films. “I don’t see the movie becoming a permanent fixture, but you know, who doesn’t like holiday movies? The public seems to have an insatiable appetite for them, and we’re kind of excited to get back in the game.”

With last year’s upfront presentations put on hold, this was the first real year for the newly merged ViacomCBS to have a hand in the program scheduling and strategy. “I think it was a smooth and rational process,” Kahl said. “The biggest downside is just not being able to be together in the same room. But we’ve had over a year to kind of get past that. I would say compared to last year it was certainly more of a traditional scheduling scenario. Kind of the same way we’ve done it in the past. People got to see pilots this year and we got to have kind of a more robust discussion about what we liked and what we didn’t, and how those pieces would best fit on the schedule. And by the way, I think despite the fact we weren’t in a room, I think we got to an incredibly robust schedule. I do think if you look night by night, we’re either winning the night or we’re at the very least very competitive. Pretty much every night of the week.”

Here is CBS’ fall 2021 schedule:

MONDAY
8 p.m. “The Neighborhood”
8:30 p.m. “Bob ♥ Abishola”
9 p.m. “NCIS” (new time period)
10 p.m. “NCIS: Hawai’i” (new drama)

TUESDAY
8 p.m. “FBI” (new time period)
9 p.m. “FBI: International” (new drama)
10 p.m. “FBI: Most Wanted”

WEDNESDAY
8 p.m. “Survivor”
9 p.m. “Tough As Nails” (new time period)
10 p.m. “CSI: Vegas” (new drama)

THURSDAY
8 p.m. “Young Sheldon”
8:30 p.m. “United States of Al”
9 p.m. “Ghosts” (new comedy)
9:30 p.m. “B Positive”
10 p.m. “Bull” (new time period)

FRIDAY
8 p.m. “SWAT” (new time period)
9 p.m. “Magnum P.I.”
10 p.m. “Blue Bloods”

SATURDAY
8 p.m. Repeats
9 p.m. Repeats
10:00-11:00 PM “48 Hours”

SUNDAY
7 p.m. “60 Minutes”
8 p.m. “The Equalizer”
9 p.m. “NCIS: Los Angeles”
10 p.m. “Seal Team” (new time period)

NEW FALL DRAMAS

NCIS: HAWAI ‘ I (Monday, 10:00-11:00 PM)

The world’s most successful television series continues on the seductive shores of the Aloha State with NCIS: HAWAI ‘ I, where the first female Special Agent in Charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor, Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey), has thrived and risen through the ranks by equal parts confidence and strategy in a system that has pushed back on her every step of the way. Together with her unwavering team of specialists, they balance duty to family and country while investigating high-stakes crimes involving military personnel, national security and the mysteries of the sun-drenched island paradise itself. Matt Bosack, Jan Nash and Christopher Silber serve as executive producers for CBS Studios. Larry Teng is an executive producer and directed (initial episode only) from a script by Bosack, Nash and Silber.

NCIS: HAWAI ‘ I stars Vanessa Lachey as Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant, Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy, Jason Antoon as Ernie, and Noah Mills as Jesse.

FBI: INTERNATIONAL (Tuesday, 9:00-10:00 PM)

From Emmy Award-winning executive producer Dick Wolf, fast-paced drama FBI: INTERNATIONAL is the third iteration of the successful FBI brand that follows the elite operatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s International Fly Team. Headquartered in Prague, they travel the world with the mission of tracking and neutralizing threats against American citizens wherever they may be. Not allowed to carry guns, the Fly Team relies on intelligence, quick thinking and pure brawn as they put their lives on the line to protect the U.S. and its people. Dick Wolf, Derek Haas, Matt Olmstead, Arthur Forney and Peter Jankowski are the executive producers. The series is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with CBS Studios.

CSI: VEGAS (Wednesday, 10:00-11:00 PM)

CSI: VEGAS, the sequel to the Network’s global hit “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” opens a brand-new chapter in Las Vegas—the city where it all began. Facing an existential threat that could bring down the entire Crime Lab and release thousands of convicted killers back onto the neon-lit streets of Vegas, a brilliant new team of investigators led by Maxine Roby (Paula Newsome) must enlist the help of old friends, Gil Grissom (William Petersen), Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) and David Hodges (Wallace Langham). This combined force will deploy the latest forensic techniques to do what they do best—follow the evidence—in order to preserve and serve justice in Sin City. Jason Tracey serves as executive producer and showrunner; Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed, Anthony Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Ann Donahue, Craig O’Neill, William Petersen and Cindy Chvatal are also executive producers. Uta Briesewitz is an executive producer and directed (initial episode only) from a script by Tracey. The series is produced by CBS Studios in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Television.

CSI: VEGAS stars original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” cast members William Petersen, Jorja Fox and Wallace Langham, who will reprise their roles as Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle and David Hodges, respectively; Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby; Matt Lauria as Joshua Folsom; Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan; and Mel Rodriguez as Hugo Ramirez.

NEW FALL COMEDY

GHOSTS (Thursday, 9:00-9:30 PM)
GHOSTS is a single-camera comedy about Samantha (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a cheerful freelance journalist and up-and-coming chef from the city, respectively, who throw both caution and money to the wind when they decide to convert a huge rundown country estate they inherited into a bed & breakfast—only to find it’s inhabited by the many spirits of deceased residents who now call it home. The departed souls are a close-knit, eclectic group that includes a saucy Prohibition-era lounge singer, a pompous 1700’s Militiaman, a ‘60s hippie fond of hallucinogens, an overly upbeat ‘80s scout troop leader, a cod-obsessed Viking explorer from 1009, a slick ‘90s finance bro, a sarcastic and witty Native from the 1500s, and a society woman and wife of an 1800’s robber baron who is Samantha’s ancestor, to name a few. If the spirits were anxious about the commotion a renovation and B&B will create in their home, it’s nothing compared to when they realize Samantha is the first live person who can see and hear them. Joe Port & Joe Wiseman, Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond and Martha Howe-Douglas; Alison Carpenter, Debra Hayward, and Alison Owen (Monumental Television); and Angie Stephenson (BBC Studios) are the executive producers for CBS Studios in association with Lionsgate Television and BBC Studios’ Los Angeles production arm. Trent O’Donnell is an executive producer (pilot only) and directed the pilot from a script by Port & Wiseman. Based on the BBC Studios distributed format.

GHOSTS stars Rose McIver as Samantha, Utkarsh Ambudkar as Jay, Danielle Pinnock as Alberta, Brandon Scott Jones as Isaac, Richie Moriarty as Pete, Asher Grodman as Trevor, Sheila Carrasco as Flower, Román Zaragoza as Sasappis, Devan Chandler Long as Thorfinn, and Rebecca Wisocky as Hetty.

MIDSEASON

SMALLWOOD
SMALLWOOD, based on professional bowler Tom Smallwood’s life, stars Pete Holmes as Tom, a stoic Midwest husband and dad who gets laid off from a car assembly line and makes the extraordinary decision to provide for his family by following his dream of becoming a professional bowler. As a skilled player, Tom knows that in bowling you get two chances; no matter what you do with the first ball, you get another one to make it right—the ultimate second chance. Keeping that in mind, Tom begins his new career with the loving okay from his wife, Jen (Katie Lowes), and the unfaltering support of Archie (Chi McBride), his mentor and the proud owner of Archie’s Lanes: Home of the Curly Fry. It remains to be seen if Tom will strike it big on the Pro Bowler circuit, but right now, the pins are set, he’s taking his second shot and it’s 300 or bust! Mark Gross, David Hollander and Brian D’Arcy James serve as executive producers for CBS Studios. Mark Cendrowski directed the pilot from a script by Gross.

SMALLWOOD stars Pete Holmes as Tom, Chi McBride as Archie, and Katie Lowes as Jen.

GOOD SAM
GOOD SAM stars Sophia Bush (“Chicago” franchise, “One Tree Hill”) and Jason Isaacs (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, “Harry Potter” films) in a drama about Dr. Sam Griffith (Bush), a gifted heart surgeon who excels in her new leadership role as Chief of Surgery after her renowned boss falls into a coma. When her former boss wakes up months later demanding to resume his duties, Sam is tasked with supervising this egotistical expert with a scalpel who never acknowledged her stellar talent. Complicating matters is that the caustic and arrogant Dr. Rob “Griff” Griffith (Isaacs) also happens to be her father. As Griff defies Sam’s authority and challenges her medical expertise, the big question becomes whether this father and daughter will ever be able to mend their own relationship as expertly as they heal the hearts of their patients. Katie Wech, Jennie Snyder Urman and Joanna Klein serve as executive producers for CBS Studios. Tamra Davis is an executive producer (pilot only) and directed the pilot from a script by Wech.

GOOD SAM stars Sophia Bush as Dr. Sam Griffith, Jason Isaacs as Dr. Rob “Griff” Griffith, Skye P. Marshall as Dr. Lex Trulie, Michael Stahl-David as Dr. Caleb Tucker, Davi Santos as Dr. Joey Costa, Omar Maskati as Dr. Isan M. Shah, Wendy Crewson as Vivian Katz, and Edwin Hodge as Malcolm A. Kingsley.

COME DANCE WITH ME
In COME DANCE WITH ME, exceptionally talented young dancers from across the country invite one inspirational, untrained family member or other adult who has supported their dance dreams, to become their dance partner for a chance to strut their stuff for a grand prize. The series is hosted by Philip Lawrence with judges Jenna Dewan, Tricia Miranda and Dexter Mayfield. Each week, these aspiring kids will share their love of dance with their mother, father, grandparent or other hero on an uplifting and emotional journey to learn and perform challenging routines, with the assistance of professional choreographers, in a competition with other duos. COME DANCE WITH ME is produced by CBS Studios and 3 Ball Productions. LL Cool J, Chris O’Donnell, Reinout Oerlemans, Ross Weintraub and Jeff Altrock, Jeff Thacker, Nick Florez and RJ Durell are executive producers.