NBC is making Thursday nights Must-See TV again, stocking the night with a revival of its hit sitcom Will & Grace and, in a bold scheduling move, shifting freshman phenom This Is Us to anchor the night at 9 p.m.
“Our hope is to create the return of Must-See TV on Thursday,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters this morning. “The strategy for us is to continue to grow and nurture shows and come up with nights of television that are as undeniable as we possibly can.”
Greenblatt said the network will also resurrect its Must-See TV rebranding for Thursday night, which will include shows from Tina Fey (who produces—and next season will guest-star in—Great News, airing after Will & Grace) and Dick Wolf (who is executive producing Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, which will air at 10 p.m. ET).
“It’s as close to Must-See TV as we’ve ever had in our history,” said Greenblatt. “We feel really comfortable about that.”
This Is Us—which is now the No. 2 entertainment show on broadcast in the 18-49 demo, behind only The Big Bang Theory—will also air after the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
“We think it’s peerless at the moment in broadcast television,” Greenblatt said of This Is Us.
The drama will air for six weeks in the fall, and then be preempted for six weeks when the network will air NFL games on Thursday night. Greenblatt said the network is considering a Christmas-themed episode of the show during the hiatus before it returns in January.
Overall, NBC is adding five new dramas and three new comedies to its schedule. One of the new comedies is the revival of Will & Grace, which aired from 1998 to 2006. Its season finale drew an audience of 18 million. NBC announced the Will & Grace revival in January and began teasing it last month during NBCUniversal’s annual upfront campaign, which included linear ads for the first time.
“It’s my hope that we would have more than just these 12 [episodes]” of the revival, said Greenblatt, who would like to bring the show back for the next season.
The network announced next season’s schedule ahead of Monday’s NBCUniversal combined upfront, which will give NBC (and the company’s other networks) more of an individual spotlight than last year’s event did. NBCUniversal ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino promised Adweek that, once again, Monday’s event will be completed in just under two hours.
NBC, which claimed the lead this season among all networks in adults 18 to 49, seems likely to hold onto it next year as well, thanks to the Super Bowl and then, just four days later, the Winter Olympics.
Looking at the rest of the week
Greenblatt said the network has brought back more returning shows than in recent years (including Timeless, which the network briefly canceled last week before unexpectedly reversing course yesterday) and will be airing “more originals than ever before” next season. “We’ll reduce our repeat load substantially.”
On Mondays this fall, NBC will use The Voice, which will feature Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson (and Kelly Clarkson in the spring), to launch its new patriotic drama, The Brave, in which D.C. analysts work with special ops forces to pull off dangerous missions around the world.
Tuesdays will kick off with The Voice, followed by relocated comedies Superstore and The Good Place, and then Chicago Fire. The Blacklist is moving to Wednesdays at 8, leading in to stalwarts Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D.
That leads to its powerhouse Thursday lineup: Will & Grace at 8, followed by Great News (Greenblatt said the midseason comedy “has only begun its growth” and promised, “You will see Tina Fey popping into this world next year”). The network will end the night with Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, about Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of murdering their parents. Edie Falco stars as their attorney, Leslie Abramson.