2017 Broadcast Television Upfronts Roundup

For those of you who don’t know (or, you know, care), May is a pretty important month in the business of television, primarily for the big broadcasters: NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and The CW. They’ve present what’s called their “upfronts” to potential big advertisers over the last few days – essentially, showing their new shows and fall schedules to these folks in exchange for the almighty advertising dollar, which in exchange allows them to keep these programs on air.

ABC probably made the biggest headlines with two major programming shifts. The first, and let’s just get it out of the way, is the cancellation of the long-running Tim Allen show “Man of the House”, despite its relatively good ratings. This has led many, who frankly have too much time on their hands, to question whether this was politically motivated, and whether or not Alphabet Soup just wanted Allen, an outspoken conservative, out of the Mouse House entirely. Time will tell, ultimately. If this was a poor financial decision, another network will pick up the show pretty quickly. In addition, ABC was set to absorb the operation costs after this year, and the network also canceled its other multi-cam sitcom, which had a homosexual lead. Moreover, the network has had much more long-term success with the single-camera, non-laugh track 30 minute comedy format shows, like The Middle, Modern Family, Black-ish and more. As the facts pile up, the cancellation makes sense for ABC, ratings or no.

Taking Allen’s place on Friday night is Once Upon a Time, with the magical veteran making the move over from Sundays. But that’s not why it made news – the show will be essentially rebooted for its seventh season. Gone are several of its regular leads, including Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow), Josh Dallas (Charming), Jennifer Morrison (Emma) and whoever the kid who played her kid was. ABC seems to be banking on the Friday move to siphon off supernatural viewers from NBC’s cancelled Grimm and Fox’s axed Sleepy Hollow, both of which held down Friday nights last year.

ABC isn’t the only one looking for bankable programs to hold down new spots this year. NBC has decided to put all its chips in with the freshman breakout This Is Us, taking away the show’s relatively safe timeslot and holding it out on its own on Thursday nights at 9pm. Historically, this is home to NBC’s (and often television’s) greatest programs. Over the years, it has played host to shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, The Office, Frasier and so many more. Unfortunately, it now has serious competition that none of those other shows didn’t: Thursday Night Football. So This is Us will be off for a number of weeks to accommodate. It’ll also be off for weeks during the 2018 Winter Olympics. It’ll have an episode after the Super Bowl. When it’s not being moved or interrupted by sports, it’ll be going head-to-head with CBS’ heavy comedy block (which includes stalwart The Big Bang Theory) and the final season of Scandal. Seems like a lot of pressure to put on a second year show, doesn’t it? Good thing it’s been renewed through the end of Season 3.

This Is Us will have some help though on Thursday night, in the form of a returning classic NBC sitcom: Will and Grace, which now occupies the spot that Friends held for almost a decade, Thursdays at 8pm. NBC has also somehow, yet again, extended the Law and Order brand with a true crime series that will air at 10pm, in what used to be ER’s timeslot. All in all, it seems as if the Peacock network is looking for a revival of its Must See TV brand which went the way of the dodo a few years back.

Will and Grace isn’t the only old show making the rounds this year, as ABC has plucked American Idol back from the dead and will be resurrecting it at midseason. Fox didn’t seem to be too inclined to keep the program, rather doubling down on its supernatural slate, despite the demise of Sleepy Hollow. The most interesting of these seem to be Ghosted, a paranormal comedy starring a star of The Office (Craig Robinson) and Parks and Rec (Adam Scott). That’s in addition to two other new programs, Lucifer, The Exorcist and Gotham…oh, and 10 new episodes of The X Files likely to hit in the new year. In this shift for Fox, New Girl will be subsetted with a shortened episode order coming in 2018, and neither 24 nor Prison Break are anywhere to be seen on their schedule.

Ultimately, as it always seems to be, CBS is broadcast television’s most stable slate. It’s got a couple of new multi-cam comedies after dropping Two Broke Girls, one of them a Big Bang Theory spinoff “Young Sheldon” (the plot of which is pretty clear). It’s got a couple of new procedurals. And it’s got Jeremy Piven chasing the mystery behind his daughter’s murder.

Despite all this…who wants to bet that football dominates the airwaves for like the 25th straight year?