This Is Us Stays Put: NBC Reverses Course and Keeps Its Biggest Drama on Tuesday

Must-See TV won't be coming back after all

The This Is Us cast celebrated their move to Thursdays at NBCUnviersal's upfront—but the network had second thoughts. Charles Sykes/NBCUniversal
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Must-See TV’s return was very short-lived.

Just two weeks after NBC announced next season’s most aggressive scheduling move—shifting its breakout freshman drama This Is Us from Tuesdays to Thursdays at 9 p.m.—the network has changed its mind, and will continue airing the drama on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. next season.

As part of the move, the comedies originally scheduled to air on Tuesdays, Superstore and The Good Place, will return to Thursdays, along with Chicago Fire. Meanwhile, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, about Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of murdering their parents, will make the move with This Is Us to Tuesdays.

While NBC declined to comment on the decision, it would also seem to end its plans to resurrect the Must-See TV moniker, which NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt had heralded earlier this month.

In the new lineup, Tuesdays will begin with The Voice at 8 p.m., followed by This Is Us at 9 p.m. and Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.

On Thursdays, Superstore will kick off the night at 8 p.m., followed by The Good Place, and then the Will & Grace revival at 9 p.m. and Great News at 9:30 p.m. Chicago Fire will close the night at 10 p.m.

Originally, Tuesdays featured The Voice leading into Superstore and The Good Place, ending with Chicago Fire. And Thursdays had started with Will & Grace and Great News, leading into This Is Us and ending with Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.

In the weeks leading up to the upfront, NBC had debated whether to keep This Is Us on Tuesdays or move it elsewhere in the schedule, before settling on the bold shift to Thursdays. “It’s a really audacious play to move it, not without risks, but it’s a passionate audience and I think they will go wherever we put it,” Greenblatt told Adweek earlier this month.

Speaking with reporters after unveiling the fall schedule, Greenblatt said the network “really wanted to go after Thursday in a big way. … Our hope is to create the return of Must-See TV on Thursday.” That would have also meant the return of the network’s Must-See TV branding.

Greenblatt said between the return of Will & Grace, a series executive produced by Tina Fey (Great News), This Is Us and the Dick Wolf-produced Law & Order series, “It’s as close to Must-See TV as we’ve ever had in our history.”

At the time, Greenblatt seemed unconcerned about the scheduling disruptions that would occur as a result of This Is Us airing opposite Thursday Night Football on CBS (and Scandal’s final season on ABC), and then go on hiatus while NBC broadcasts its own portion of the Thursday Night Football package. “That’s just the fact of the matter,” said Greenblatt, explaining that the drama would air six episodes, and then go on hiatus for six weeks during football. Still, he admitted, “there’s a little bit of an on-again, off-again.”

Ultimately, the network and the studio 20th Century Fox Television might have concluded that the competition could dent their plans to continue to expand This Is Us’ audience. “I think this show will continue to grow,” Greenblatt told Adweek. “I don’t think it’s starting at a plateau and is going to gradually decline over its life. It could be the show that defies 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.

Creator Dan Fogelman told Adweek that he has “a big season” planned for the show’s sophomore year. “I think that no matter how long the series goes for, when it’s all said and done, Season 2 might feel like the biggest season in terms of story content.” Most notably, Fogelman said, the show will finally address one of last season’s biggest mysteries—how and why Milo Ventimiglia’s character Jack died—“and the series is going to move in unexpected directions from there.”

Beyond its This Is Us backtracking, NBC—which reclaimed the 18-49 demo crown this season—has already made other tweaks to its plans for the 2017-18 season. Last week, the network announced it was pushing back Bye Bye Birdie Live!, a live musical starring Jennifer Lopez, from December of this year to 2018. Earlier this month, NBC briefly canceled its freshman drama Timeless before reversing course and bringing it back for next season.

Art Streiber /August

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.