Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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Trends in U.S. Network Drama


As the U.S. networks unveiled their new offerings to advertisers last week, there was a lot more uncertainty hanging over executives’ heads than usual. CBS chief Les Moonves presented his network’s fall season grid amid a legal spat with controlling stakeholder National Amusements. FOX’s head honchos talked about “New Fox,” the shape that the company will take should the pending Disney deal go through. Meanwhile, the weekend preceding the upfronts came with a lot of bad news for many creators, producers, stars and fans with a shocking number of cancellations—among them ABC’s Designated Survivor and Quantico, CBS’s Scorpion, FOX’s Lucifer and NBC’s Taken. And across the board, networks are dealing with declines in broadcast television and the never-ending competition from other viewing options.

Against an uncertain environment, the networks are largely plugging stability for the fall, with many of the new pickups not set to roll out till midseason. The broadcast nets have also stopped trying to be their cable and OTT competitors, scaling back on complex, serialized fare. In a move that is likely to delight the international free-TV buyers in Los Angeles for the Screenings this week, procedurals appear to be back in a big way on the U.S. broadcast networks. As are multicamera comedies, on the heels of the huge success of Roseanne on ABC. And the trend toward reboots and known IP that we’ve seen over the last few years is as prevalent as ever.

In terms of procedurals, new offerings include Entertainment One’s The Rookiestarring Castle alum Nathan Fillion, one of just two new fall dramas on ABC. For midseason the network has in the works the legal drama The Fix from Marcia Clark and Warner Bros.’s action dramedy Whiskey Cavalier starring Scandal’s Scott Foley and The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan. At CBS, meanwhile, which has long been known for its slate of procedurals, there’s a new Dick Wolf series in the mix called FBI; while for midseason there’s the legal drama The Code. There’s also a legal drama for midseason on FOX with Proven Innocent; the network has no new dramas in the fall, largely as a result of devoting its Thursday nights through February to NFL football. NBC has scheduled one new procedural for the fall, the hospital-set New Amsterdam, with The Enemy Within and The InBetween coming in midseason.

As with last season, there are a handful of reboots and franchise extensions on the grid, among them NBCUniversal’s Magnum P.I. for CBS, with Jay Hernandez taking on the role made famous by Tom Selleck. The CW, a year after rebooting Dynasty for its millennial audience, has a new Charmed on the grid. CBS has resurrected Murphy Brown for the fall, placing the veteran journalist played by Candice Bergen in a landscape of social media, 24-hour cable talking heads and fake news. FOX, meanwhile, is bringing back Last Man Standing, which ABC canned a year ago. The CW has a The Originals and The Vampire Diaries spin-off in Legacies, the latest from Julie Plec. ABC has ordered a spin-off of The Goldbergs from Sony Pictures Television called Schooled and slated an adaptation of the acclaimed Spanish series Gran Hotel, Grand Hotel, from Eva Longoria.

Another trend, on the heels of the success of NBC’s This Is Us, is a return to heartwarming, feel-good dramas, with the 2018-2019 season set to include ABC’s A Million Little Things, CBS’s God Friended Me and The CW’s All American. And while the networks have largely moved away from serialized drama, there are a few new offerings in the mix, among them NBC’s Lost-reminiscent Manifest and The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico. Coming to CBS in midseason is the Warner Bros. series The Red Line, about three families in the aftermath of the shooting of an African American doctor by a white cop in Chicago.

These shows and more are being plugged to international buyers at the L.A. Screenings this week. World Screen’s contributing editor, Elizabeth Guider, is on site delivering recaps of the studio presentations. Read her kickoff piece here and her sum-up of Disney’s slate here. More to follow throughout the week.

For everything you need to know about the 2018-19 season, visit World Screen’s fall season grid, with schedules by network, pop-up descriptions and trailers, and full listings by studio.

About Mansha Daswani

Mansha Daswani is the editor and associate publisher of World Screen. She can be reached on


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