NBC unveiled a 2021-2022 fall season lineup that will feature a stack of “Law & Order” series on Thursdays — giving producer Dick Wolf two full nights of shows on the schedule — as the network courts audiences with dependable procedurals and nary a comedy until mid-season.
Thursday nights this fall mark a real turn from the days of the Peacock network’s must-see comedy blocks: Season 23 of “Law & Order: SVU” will be sandwiched by Wolf’s newest addition to the franchise, “Law & Order: For the Defense,” and a second season of Christopher Meloni spinoff “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” Wednesday nights feature Wolf’s “Chicago” lineup: “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire,” and “Chicago P.D.”
NBC has also bowed to ratings gravity and opted to produce one cycle of “The Voice” next season, not two.
Despite the drama and reality heavy fall schedule, executives were quick to note, in a conference call with reporters, that its commitment to comedy has not waned. But still a major departure, as NBC has had comedies on its fall schedule since the days of the Truman administration.
“There’s obviously a long history and legacy of comedies that NBC — we want to honor that,” said Susan Rovner, chairman of entertainment content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “We love our comedies, and we do want to give them the best platform for success. We do believe holding them for mid-season and using the platforms of the Olympics and the Super Bowl is going to do that.”
Next week’s upfronts, in which major TV networks will show off their fall lineup for advertisers, mark the first breath the industry has been able to take as the nation begins to emerge from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. NBC, which kicks off three days of network schedule presentations on Monday, is betting on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, delayed a year by the pandemic, to give its comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” a big post-Games platform over the summer, but that largely depends on whether the massive global sporting event will take place at all.
“We’re really excited to have the Olympics and and I do believe that ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ will be leading out of the Olympics,” said Frances Berwick, chairman of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, indicating that the network would be responsive to change. “If the last year has taught us anything, we can be incredibly facile about moving our schedule around to adapt to changing situations.”
After “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in the summer, the rest of its comedy lineup won’t be back until midseason, with Justin Spitzer’s new series “American Auto” and Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Goor’s “Grand Crew” in addition to returning shows “Kenan,” “Mr. Mayor” and “Young Rock.”
Notably, the upcoming NBC season will only grant viewers one cycle of “The Voice,” and the sixth and final season of “This Is Us” will premiere mid-season for the first time, giving the drama’s final episodes an uninterrupted run. As for series that are on the bubble — namely “Debris,” “Ellen’s Game of Games,” “Good Girls,” “Manifest,” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” — NBC is still deciding their fates.
For NBC, one byproduct of the pandemic has been a reconsideration of pilot season, with Rovner touting a “52-week scheduling mindset,” with the possibility of green-lighting pilots as soon as mid-season or the summer, or rolling them over into the 2022-2023 TV season.
“Our goal is to try to do it year-round now, instead of competing during that short window with each other [and] really doing what’s best for these pilots in the show — taking our time to find the best cast, the best directors, the best writers, and then having the shows be ready in time when we need it,” said Rovner. “I think this is going to be better for the creative and that’s obviously going to always be my top priority.”
The network is also “rethinking” its 1:30 a.m. time slot, which has historically featured a talk show since 1988. But with the network and Lilly Singh parting ways after two years, NBC will “be going in a different direction than a talk show,” said Berwick, who declined to offer specifics.
Here’s a look at NBC’s 2021-2022 fall TV schedule:
8-10 P.M. — The Voice
10-11 P.M. — ORDINARY JOE
8-9 P.M. — The Voice
9-10 P.M. — LA BREA
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.
8-9 P.M. — LAW & ORDER: FOR THE DEFENSE
9-10 P.M. — Law & Order: SVU
10-11 P.M. — Law & Order: Organized Crime
8-9 P.M. – The Blacklist
9-11 P.M — Dateline NBC
8-9 P.M. — Drama Encores
9-10 P.M. — Dateline Weekend Mystery
10-11 P.M. – SNL Vintage
7-8:20 P.M. — Football Night in America
8:20-11 P.M. — NBC Sunday Night Football
NEW COMEDY SERIES
From the creator of “Superstore” comes a new workplace comedy that takes the wheels off the automobile industry. Set in Detroit, the corporate executives of Payne Motors are at a crossroads: adapt to the changing times or be sent to the junkyard. Shaking things up is the new CEO, whose leadership, experience and savvy is only slightly offset by her complete lack of knowledge about cars. Luckily, her team has some of the best minds in the business – when they aren’t fighting or trying to outwit each other. From the corporate office to the factory floor, the crew of Payne Motors is driving home the laughs.
The cast includes Ana Gasteyer, Jon Barinholtz, Harriet Dyer, Humphrey Ker, Michael B. Washington, Tye White and X Mayo
Justin Spitzer (“Superstore”) will write and executive produce. Jeff Blitz will direct and executive produce the pilot episode. Aaron Kaplan and Dana Honor will executive produce.
“American Auto” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Spitzer Holding Company, Kapital Entertainment.
From Phil Augusta Jackson (writer-producer-director, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Dan Goor (creator, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) comes a new comedy that proves that life is better with your crew. This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles — and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in both real estate and romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; and Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.
The cast includes Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Echo Kellum and Carl Tart.
Phil Augusta Jackson (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) will write and executive produce. Mo Marable will direct and co-executive produce the pilot. Dan Goor will executive produce.
“Grand Crew” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group.
NEW DRAMA SERIES
An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other.
The cast includes Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jon Seda, Nicholas Gonzalez, Chiké Okonkwo, Karina Logue, Zyra Gorecki, Jack Martin, Veronica St. Clair, Rohan Mirchandaney, Lily Santiago, Josh McKenzie and Chloe De Los Santos.
Writer David Appelbaum executive produces with Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, Ken Woodruff, Arika Lisanne Mittman and Adam Davidson.
“La Brea” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Keshet Studios.
Life is all about the choices you make – and sometimes what you do in a single moment can change everything. This new heartfelt, life-affirming drama follows Joe Kimbreau, who faces one of these decisions at his college graduation. The three parallel stories that diverge from that night find Joe and the people around him with different careers, relationships and family lives, showing the unexpected ways that things change – and stay the same. But when it comes down to it, there is no “right” choice; no matter what happens, Joe’s life is always messy, exciting, tough, unpredictable … and beautiful.
The cast includes James Wolk, Natalie Martinez, Elizabeth Lail and Charlie Barnett.
Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner will write and executive produce along with executive producers Matt Reeves, Adam Kassan, Rafi Crohn, Howard Klein. Adam Davidson will direct and executive produce the pilot episode.
“Ordinary Joe” is produced by 20th Television, Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, 6th & Idaho, 3 Arts.
“LAW & ORDER: FOR THE DEFENSE”
In its 30-year history as the most successful brand in television, Law and Order has only ever explored the perspective of its iconic prosecutors … until now. From legendary executive producer Dick Wolf comes “Law & Order: For the Defense,” the newest entry in the beloved franchise that takes an unflinching look inside a criminal defense firm. Every week, the series will put the lawyers – and the criminal justice system – under the microscope like only Law & Order can, delivering hard-hitting, ripped-from-the-headlines stories that provide a new vantage point on justice.
Carol Mendelsohn will executive produce with Dick Wolf, Arthur Forney, Julie Weitz and Peter Jankowski.
The series will be produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, and Wolf Entertainment.
LIMITED DRAMA SERIES
“THE THING ABOUT PAM”
Two-time Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger stars in a riveting true-crime drama inspired by one of the most popular, compelling sagas ever told on “Dateline NBC.” What appeared to be a straightforward murder case would eventually set off a chain of events exposing both a wrongful conviction and a diabolical scheme involving a woman named Pam Hupp. From Blumhouse Television, NBC News Studios and showrunner/executive producer Jessika Borsiczky, this limited series will bring a new perspective to a story that has already captivated millions.
The cast includes Renee Zellweger.
“The Thing About Pam” will be executive produced by Renee Zellweger, Carmella Casinelli, Jessika Borsiczky, Liz Cole, Noah Oppenheim, Jason Blum, Chris McCumber and Jeremy Gold.
Blumhouse Television, NBC News Studios and Big Picture Co. will produce.
NEW UNSCRIPTED SERIES
Expanding the “America’s Got Talent” franchise from powerhouse producer Simon Cowell and production partner Fremantle, “AGT: Extreme” will showcase the most outrageous and jaw-dropping daredevil acts. Each week extreme contestants will go head-to-head in the most wild, wacky and craziest stunts to vie for the ultimate title. Cowell will serve as a judge.
“AGT: Extreme” will be co-produced by Fremantle and Syco Entertainment. Simon Cowell, Sam Donnelly, Jason Raff and Richard Wallace are the executive producers.
“AMERICAN SONG CONTEST”
America’s biggest live entertainment event has arrived! Based on the worldwide phenomenon “Eurovision Song Contest,” organized for 65 years by the European Broadcasting Union and watched by 200 million viewers annually, this amazing musical spectacular combines the competitive spirit of rooting for your favorite sports team with the joy of watching a beloved singing performance. In the U.S. version of the international megahit, “American Song Contest” will feature live original musical performances, representing all 50 states, five U.S. territories and our nation’s capital, competing to win the country’s vote for the Best Original Song. An incredible solo artist, duo, DJ or a band will represent each location and will perform a new, original song, celebrating the different styles and genres across America. The live competition consists of three rounds as the acts compete in a series of Qualifying Rounds, followed by the Semi Finals and the ultimate Grand Final where one state or territory will emerge victorious.
“American Song Contest” will be produced by Anders Lenhoff, Christer Björkman, Peter Settman and Ola Melzig alongside Propagate’s Ben Silverman, Howard T. Owens and Gregory Lipstone. The series is from Universal Television Alternative Studio, a division of Universal Studio Group
“THAT’S MY JAM”
Jimmy Fallon will make his primetime hosting debut and executive produce “That’s My Jam,” a new hourlong music and comedy variety event series that draws its creative DNA from wildly popular “The Tonight Show” games such as “Wheel of Musical Impressions,” “Roots Name That Song” and “Slay It Don’t Spray It.” In each episode, two teams of two celebrities compete for charity in a series of music and dance-based games, performative segments and play-along trivia with Fallon hosting all the action.
The format was brought to Universal Television Alternative Studio by Fallon, longtime “The Tonight Show” producer Jim Juvonen and writer Josh Knapp. Adam Blackstone is Musical Director and will lead the house band throughout each episode. Mike Yurchuk will serve as showrunner.
“LA FIRE AND RESCUE”
In this new docuseries, Dick Wolf, Universal Television Alternative Studio and 44 Blue Productions have gained unprecedented access within The Los Angeles County Fire Department. The LACoFD is responsible for protecting the lives and property of 4 million residents living in 59 cities across Los Angeles County. From helicopter mountain rescues, lifeguard beach SOS, fireboats, hazmat units, to California’s raging wildfires… they do it all. These fire fighters are true everyday heroes and their compelling stories will be told alongside the heart-pounding action of unpredictable and dangerous circumstances as they face the front lines of life and death. From the producers of NBC’s hit drama Chicago Fire comes Real Heroes. Real Calls. Real Drama.
The series is produced by Dick Wolf and Tom Thayer for Wolf Entertainment, Rasha Drachkovitch for 44 Blue, and Universal Television Alternative Studio, a division of Universal Studio Group.
The series will put viewers into a spin each week as celebrity guests attempt to help contestants win big. Full of edge-of-your seat jeopardy, plenty of laughs, huge stars and a spectacular 42-foot-wide spinning wheel make for one of the most exciting, and unorthodox, game shows to come around in a long time.
“The Wheel’ is produced by Michael McIntyre and Dan Baldwin for Hungry McBear and by Warner Bros. Unscripted Television in association with Warner Horizon with Mike Darnell and Brooke Karzen serving as executive producers. Jeff Apploff serves as executive producer and showrunner.
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
“Who Do You Think You Are?” returns with new journeys of self-discovery, connection and diversity. A new group of celebrities will set sail on their mission to connect with their family history.
“Who Do You Think You Are?” is produced by Warner Bros. Unscripted Television in association with Shed Media, Is or Isn’t Entertainment and Ancestry with Dan Peirson, Lisa Shannon, Stephanie Schwam, Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky executive producing.
“HOME SWEET HOME”
Following two families who lead very different lives for a life-changing experience, executive producer Ava DuVernay’s “Home Sweet Home” explores what it’s like to walk a mile in another person’s shoes by challenging racial, religious, economic, geographic, gender and identity assumptions as participants exchange homes for a week and experience the life of someone unlike them.
From Warner Bros. Unscripted Television in association with Warner Horizon and ARRAY, “Home Sweet Home” is executive produced by Ava DuVernay, Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes.
(Pictured: “Law & Order: Organized Crime” and “Law & Order: For the Defense”)