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Fall Network Schedule Impacted by Writers’ Guild Strike

Fall TV schedules impacted by writers' strike

The Take

  • The writers’ strike has already impacted numerous film and TV productions globally. The fall TV schedule may be next.
  • ABC is the only one of the Big Four networks with a strike-proof schedule. The network is airing unscripted programming and reruns of Abbott Elementary.
  • CBS and NBC are hoping for the return of NCIS and Law & Order: SVU in time for the fall season.
  • Viewers may see the return of scripted programming to the major broadcast networks by January—also known as the midseason.

The writers’ strike has led to the shutdown of numerous film and TV productions that were in production worldwide. But its most significant impact may be felt when the major broadcast networks come on air for the fall.

In late September, after the Emmys, the fall season may look very different without NCIS, Law & Order: SVU, Abbott Elementary, and 9-1-1: Lone Star on screen. With writers on strike, new episodes of broadcast favorites cannot be written or filmed, so fall premieres will likely be delayed until the strike is resolved and a fair deal for all involved is reached.

ABC, CBS, and The CW unveiled their fall schedules at the advertising Upfronts in New York City. Half rely on scripted programming, and the other half focus on unscripted programming as networks and studios wait out the strike.

For now, ABC is the only network with a “strike-proof” schedule, which relies exclusively on reality, news, and unscripted programming. (Plus repeats of sitcom hit Abbott Elementary.) CBS and NBC’s schedules both include scripted shows. Fox has yet to unveil its fall schedule.

What do the fall schedules look like?

NBC and CBS plan for their scripted hits—including NCIS and Law & Order: SVU—to return in time for the fall. But they are the only networks of the five major broadcast channels to anticipate a return to scripted series.

ABC’s fall schedule will consist primarily of reality TV and conscripted programming. The network also announced the return of Dancing with the Stars from Disney+ and has a new version of The Bachelor coming. The CW picked up FBoy Island (from the streaming service previously known as HBO Max) and ordered FGirl Island for the fall, along with larger episode counts for returning unscripted series.

Heather Olander, head of unscripted programming for the CW, told The Los Angeles Times that networks and streamers are expanding orders of established reality and unscripted series and greenlighting spin-offs from the same franchises. ABC and the CW are the two major broadcast networks embracing this approach with The Bachelor and FBoy Island.

The return of scripted hits is optimistic, considering the strike is ongoing and dozens of shows are already affected. And if the strike were to end over the summer, there is only a little lead time for shows to get back up and running for the start of the fall season in late September.

Ari Goldman, the senior vp content strategy and scheduling at ABC Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter he doesn’t think there will be new episodes of scripted shows even if the strike ends by July 1: “For a new show to get up and running and turned around with the care and attention we want to put into those shows, I don’t think we would be in the position to rush a new series on the scripted side.”

So will shows like Abbott Elementary, NCIS, and Law & Order: SVU return to screens? Probably not for the fall. But Goldman hopes ABC’s scripted shows—including the recently acquired 9-1-1—will air in January for the midseason. It all depends on how long the WGA and AMPTP take to reach a fair deal and end the strike.

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