UPFRONTS: Wolf reigns as networks turn to franchise formula…

The 'NCIS', 'Law & Order' and 'FBI' franchises are to form programming 'blocks' on weekday nights...

After a crazy year caused by covid, it seems that the major networks want to avoid risks and go with proven formula. In this case, more than ever, that means taking far less chances on new or innovative, niche titles and relying on existing franchise titles and expanding them out.

Though CBS is waving goodbye to NCIS: New Orleans (the youngest of the NCIS franchise to date), it will continue with the nineteenth season of the parent show, though in significant news it will move off its long-established Tuesday slot and on to Mondays. Mark Harmon now has a year-by-year contract and will probably appear in less episodes than previous years, scaling back his senior presence on the show. NCIS: Los Angeles will enter its thirteenth season with no significant changes to cast or schedule, still on Sunday nights and the new kid on the block will be NCIS: Hawai’i. (with the original NCIS as its Monday lead-in). That new show will star Vanessa Lachey as Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant, Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy, Jason Antoon as Ernie, and Noah Mills as Jesse and should launch later this year.

CSI: Vegas may be the only CSI series on air – its New York, Miami and Cyber offshoots now long gone – but it will take the franchise back to its Las Vegas roots and will see original stars William Petersen, Jorja Fox and Wallace Langham returning to lead a new team of forensic specialists and dealing with the discovery of  a possible massively compromise in the labs on Wednesday nights for CBS. The newer faces on the Vegas block will include Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby; Matt Lauria as Joshua Folsom; Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan; and Mel Rodriguez as Hugo Ramirez.

Three Dick-Wolf produced shows, FBI, FBI: Most Wanted and upcoming entry FBI: International will now form a Tuesday block.  The international aspect of the show will deal with situations and territories where the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s International ‘Fly Team’, which is headquartered in Prague, travels the world and will always not be able to operate the same procedures and tactics as they can on American soil.

Over on NBC, Wolf will also reign supreme.  The traditional Wednesday block of Chicago MedChicago Fire and Chicago P.D. will continue its block. His other major franchise, Law & Order,  will continue its record-breaking run with few changes and we know that newer arrival Law & Order: Organized Crime (with Chris Meloni as Eliot Stabler) is also set to continue, likely creating more opportunities for crossovers. The new series Law & Order: For the Defense will start to show the legal process from the other perspective. All three shows will be scheduled for Thursday nights.  This means that one man, Wolf, ultimately has the unprecedented position of dominating three nights of consolidated television.

Whether that is – creatively – a good position for television to be in, regardless of who the person with the creative-monopoly power may be, remains to be seen…