TV Upfronts

Following a Year of Hollywood Strikes, NBC's Fall Lineup Is All About 'Stability'

The network will celebrate 50 years of Saturday Night Live with a 3-hour special in February

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Live from New York… it’s Sunday night?

Saturday Night Live is celebrating the big 5-0 in 2025, and NBC is marking the occasion with a weekend-long celebration culminating in a three-hour special that’s airing on February 16 from 8-11 p.m. ET. Flip ahead in the calendar, and you’ll see that’s a Sunday, not a Saturday.

But don’t worry: Lorne Michaels’ late-night institution isn’t getting a 50th-anniversary rebrand. Consider this a repeat of a programming strategy that worked so well the last time SNL celebrated a major anniversary—the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special, which aired on February 15, 2015.

“We just decided that 10 years later, we’ll do the 50th anniversary on that same Sunday,” Jeff Bader, NBCUniversal Entertainment’s president of program planning strategy, tells ADWEEK during a conversation previewing the network’s 2024-25 fall and midseason schedule. “It also affords us the opportunity to have four hours of primetime versus the three hours we’d have on a Saturday. It’s still Saturday Night Live no matter what.”

Even if the special airs on a Sunday, expect it to be a ratings monster filled with cameos from five decades’ worth of Not Ready for Primetime Players. There’s also an expectation that we may finally hear who will be taking over for Michaels should he decide to exit Studio 8H after the show’s 50th season. But Bader tamps down on any succession speculation ahead of the special. “It’s just the celebration of the 50 years of SNL on NBC and there’s nothing to say about Lorne or any of those plans.”  

But before February—and TV upfront week—comes NBC’s fall lineup, which features three new series alongside returning hits like Night Court and Dick Wolf’s various installments in the Chicago and Law & Order franchises. According to Steve Kern, NBC Entertainment’s senior vice president of program planning and scheduling, “stability” is the narrative of the 2024-2025 season.  

“We have returning shows on every night of the week, including football on Saturday and Sunday,” Kern notes. “And we’re using our stable schedule to launch new shows, while also fortifying shows coming back for their second seasons. That’s how it’s been for many years for NBC: We try to use our hit shows to launch new shows.”

Not for nothing, but the upcoming trio of new fall shows feature on-camera and behind-the-scenes talent who have a successful history with the network, starting with the Zachary Quinto-led medical drama, Brilliant Minds. Quinto scored his breakout role nearly two decades ago as the brain-eating villain Sylar on NBC’s comic book-inspired series, Heroes. He’s still fascinated by gray matter on Brilliant Minds, which casts him as Oliver Wolf, a dedicated neurosurgeon modeled after real-life physician, Oliver Sacks.

A look at Brilliant Minds.Peter Kramer/NBC

“It’s a great character, and a unique way of doing a procedural,” Bader says of the series, which was originally titled Wolf.

“That was a temporary title,” Bader explains. “It’s always better if the title tells you what the show is.”

NBC also has another medical show coming this fall, albeit in a very different key. St. Denis Medical is the network’s latest collaboration with Justin Spitzer, who previously created Superstore and American Auto for the network.

“It’s a special show, and very on-brand for NBC,” Bader says of the comedic take on a seen-better-days Oregon hospital staffed by seasoned laugh-generating staff like Wendi McLendon-Covey, Allison Tolman and David Alan Grier. “It’s smart, it’s funny and it has heart. We’re excited about it.”

Last, but not least, is Happy’s Place, the first starring sitcom role for country legend—and fan favorite Voice coach—Reba McEntire since 2012’s short-lived Malibu Country. Written by that show’s creator, Kevin Abbott, Happy’s Place finds McEntire inheriting the titular bar from her late father and working alongside the half-sister she just met. “Reba is a big presence for us on The Voice, so this is a great opportunity to launch another show with her,” Bader says.  

It’s worth noting that rumors about McEntire’s future on The Voice have been swirling around the reality staple since its 25th season launched in February. “We’re announcing who the fall coaches will be on Monday,” Bader says when asked if Happy’s Place will impact the singer’s Voice commitments. “Stay tuned.”

Recent reports have indicated that Hollywood is still feeling the impact of last year’s historic double strike by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, not to mention the looming threat of another strike as the various unions that make up IATSE navigate ongoing negotiations with the AMPTP. Both Bader and Kern indicate that NBC is in a good place no matter what the next few months have in store on the labor front.

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

“Many of our fall shows are already in production now because we learned to be prepared,” Bader says. “So they’re a good three or four months ahead of where they would’ve been otherwise, and we will be prepared for whatever happens if there’s another strike.”

Kern also says last year’s strikes weren’t the reason why NBC’s 10-episode event series, The Americas, wound up being bumped from Spring 2024 to 2025. “When you see it, you’ll understand why it was not strike-related,” he explains of the Tom Hanks-produced and narrated nature documentary, which is set for a two-hour premiere on February 23. “It took five years to shoot, edit and produce and they wanted to have the time to make it right. It’s great and epic and beautiful.”

One show that may still crash the 2024-25 lineup is Suits: LA, a revival of the USA series that unexpectedly re-entered the pop culture zeitgeist when it streamed on Netflix last summer. Creator Aaron Korsh is overseeing the spinoff, which is set to star Stephen Amell and Lex Scott Davis.

“It’s a pilot,” Bader cautions, adding that the network will see it in June and make a call then about whether it’ll be fast-tracked or held until 2025-26. “It’s a new show to a lot of people and it’s doing very well on streaming, so we’re very excited about seeing this new incarnation.”


(New programs in ALL CAPS; times are ET)

8 p.m. — The Voice 
10 p.m. — BRILLIANT MINDS    

8:30 p.m. — Night Court 
9 p.m. — The Voice  
10 p.m. — The Irrational  

8 p.m. — Chicago Med 
9 p.m. — Chicago Fire
10 p.m. — Chicago P.D.

8 p.m. — Law & Order
9 p.m. — Law & Order: SVU
10 p.m. — Found

8 p.m. — HAPPY’S PLACE
8:30 p.m. — Lopez vs. Lopez
9 p.m. — Dateline NBC

7 p.m. — Big Ten Pregame / Notre Dame Pregame (also live on Peacock) 
7:30 p.m. — Big Ten Saturday Night / Notre Dame Football (also live on Peacock) 

7 p.m. — Football Night in America (also live on Peacock)  
8:20 p.m. — NBC Sunday Night Football (also live on Peacock) 

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