What to expect on network TV during the 2020-2021 season


The 2019-2020 U.S. television season saw itself shortened or revised in many cases as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Upfront presentations—where networks court ad dollars while showing off their fall lineups—planned for this time of year have also been canceled (or at least reworked). But that doesn’t mean TV networks aren’t planning for the 2020-2021 season (even if it’s unclear when episodes may actually be able to air).

In fact, some networks announced renewals well before the coronavirus crisis evolved into a full-blown pandemic.

Though some long-running series—including Modern Family and The Good Place—have officially said goodbye to viewers, a number of them are expected to return. Some new shows will return for a sophomore year. Though the futures of some programs remain undetermined, here’s what the networks have in mind (so far) for the next season of TV:

Midseason launches may be the safest bet against coronavirus disruptions

Many series launches will wait until midseason if recent announcements from Fox and The CW are any indication. On Thursday, The CW said it would delay 10 original series to January, while another seven could debut anywhere between April through June 2021. Supernatural, which would have seen its final episode air around this time, will be the rare show to return in the fall if production gets back on track. Acquired series like Tell Me a Story and Swamp Thing will help fill the network’s pre-January schedule.

Franchises are still king

NCIS: Los Angeles
Pictured: LL COOL J (Special Agent Sam Hanna) and Chris O’Donnell (Special Agent G. Callen on “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which was renewed by CBS for another season.
CBS via Getty Images

All hail NCIS. After CBS announced what it was picking up last week, it was clear that the flagship franchise and its spinoffs still hold a lot of value at the network. The original NCIS was renewed for its 18th season, while spinoffs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans respectively got a 12th season and seventh season order. Dick Wolf’s FBI shows—FBI and FBI: Most Wanted—are also coming back for new seasons.

Speaking of Dick Wolf procedurals: Over at NBC, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which became the longest-running prime-time live-action series last fall, is supposed to come back for another three seasons. And after years away from the show, Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler is expected to be in the show’s 22nd season premiere. (And bonus for Stabler fans: the character is also slated to be the focus of a new spinoff series, which received a 13-episode order.) Wolf’s Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med are also all set to come back for three seasons each.

At Fox, 9-1-1 will get a fourth season, while spinoff series 9-1-1: Lone Star is expected to come back for a second, as per an announcement made last month, though they’re now moving to midseason amid programming shifts.

Long-running series (whatever the genre) remain safe bets

They may not be franchises along the lines of NCIS or Law & Order, but a good number of TV’s mainstays aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. At ABC, Grey’s Anatomy, which bypassed ER earlier this year as the longest-running medical drama, is supposed to come back for seasons 16 and 17. Even though coronavirus-linked production troubles have hit the network’s Bachelor series hard, The Bachelor should come back for season 25, The Bachelorette is renewed for season 16, and Bachelor in Paradise is also renewed for season seven.

Perhaps unsurprising to no one, Fox is bringing back The Simpsons, which is renewed through season 32. Family Guy, once the victim of cancellation in the early 2000s, will come back for season 19. Bob’s Burgers will also be back for an 11th season.

…but there is such a thing as too much nostalgia

All TV shows aren’t meant to live on forever, even with long-running franchises and TV revivals becoming the norm on our screens these days. Beverly Hills 90210 revival BH90210, which aired last summer on Fox, was canceled early on. And while not actually canceled, NBC’s Will & Grace revival is officially done (again) after its second series finale aired in April.

Some freshman shows make the cut

Even with uncertainty ahead, some new series from the previous TV season will get to tell more stories when production resumes. CBS legal drama All Rise, which recently closed out its first season with a virtually produced coronavirus-centric episode, will be back, as will the network’s Evil, which comes from The Good Wife and The Good Fight creators Robert and Michelle King. CBS has also ordered new seasons of Bob Hearts Abishola and The Unicorn.

Batwoman and Nancy Drew are both renewed for second seasons at The CW, which announced their fate as part of an early renewals announcement back in January.

Greg Berlanti remains on top

Like last year and years past, Greg Berlanti is staying busy. The prolific executive producer is on track to be at the helm of 10 shows over at The CW (about 21 series overall on TV, even with Arrow wrapped up and CBS’s God Friended Me canceled). New additions to his CW roster include Superman & Lois, ordered to series earlier this year, and a reboot of Kung Fu.

And yes, there should still be new shows on offer

Kung Fu and Superman & Lois aren’t the only new series expected at The CW. Republic of Sarah and Walker (a reimagined Texas Ranger) are also part of the club. Earlier this year, ABC also announced a new David E. Kelley police drama, The Big Sky, while CBS had plans for Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice, a new Chuck Lorre comedy B Positive, and a reboot of The Equalizer.

In addition to the Stabler SVU spinoff, The Kenan Show should also be part of the new season at NBC, alongside Young Rock and Mr. Mayor, which stars Ted Danson and was cocreated by Tina Fey. Fox, meanwhile, has ordered Call Me Kat, starring Mayim Bialik, and another animated series, Housebroken.

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