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.
The network will once again air five Thursday Night Football games, in the second year of its two-year sharing deal with CBS and NFL Network.
Friday night features two shows that were somewhat unexpectedly renewed—Blindspot and Taken—followed by Dateline.
Saturdays are unchanged, with Dateline and Saturday Night Live repeats, while Sunday will feature Sunday Night Football. After the NFL season concludes, the network will air Little Big Shots, new game show Ellen’s Games of Games and Jennifer Lopez drama Shades of Blue.
Midseason dramas include Good Girls (about three suburban moms trying to make ends meet who rob a supermarket), Reverie (a virtual reality thriller, starring Sarah Shahi) and Rise (from Friday Night Lights and Parenthood creator Jason Katims, about a Pennsylvania high school drama department).
NBC will air a pair of comedies in midseason: A.P. Bio (about a philosophy professor, played by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton, who doesn’t get his dream job and decides to work as a high school bio teacher, using his students to enact his revenge) and Champions (about a gym owner who discovers he has a teenage son; it was co-written by Mindy Kaling, who will recur on the series as the boy’s mother).
The network’s midseason reality shows include The Awesome Show, hosted by Chris Hardwick, showcasing scientific breakthroughs; Ellen’s Game of Games, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and featuring games from her talk show; Genius Junior, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, spotlighting the country’s smartest kids; and The Handmade Project, a craft competition executive produced by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.
Greenblatt said the network still hasn’t made a decision about renewing freshmen series Chicago Justice and Trial & Error, and that both could still potentially return.
NBC FALL 2017-18 SCHEDULE
(New programs in ALL CAPS)
8-10 p.m. — The Voice
10-11 p.m. — THE BRAVE
8-9 p.m. — The Voice
9-9:30 p.m. — Superstore (new time slot)
9:30-10 p.m. — The Good Place (new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — Chicago Fire
8-9 p.m. — The Blacklist (new time slot)
9-10 p.m. — Law & Order: SVU
10-11 p.m. — Chicago P.D.
8-8:30 p.m. — WILL & GRACE
8:30-9 p.m. — Great News (new time slot)
9-10 p.m. — This Is Us (new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS
8-9 p.m. — Blindspot (new time slot)
9-10 p.m. — Taken (new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — Dateline
8-10 p.m. — Dateline Saturday Night Mystery
10-11 p.m. — Saturday Night Live (classic encores)
7-8:20 p.m. — Football Night in America
8:20-11 p.m. — Sunday Night Football
A.P. BIO, THE AWESOME SHOW, CHAMPIONS, Chicago Med, ELLEN’S GAME OF GAMES, GENIUS JUNIOR, GOOD GIRLS, THE HANDMADE PROJECT, Little Big Shots, REVERIE, RISE, Shades of Blue, Timeless, The Wall