EXCLUSIVE: Back in May, two weeks into the WGA strike, ABC picked up one new scripted series for the 2023-34 season: Drew Goddard’s High Potential starring Kaitlin Olson. In late September, two days after the end of the WGA strike, the high-profile series was pushed to a fall 2024 launch.
As the anticipated restart of Hollywood production gets delayed further and further by the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, most other new scripted broadcast series picked up last spring for the 2023-24 season are also looking to debut next season.
I hear NBC and Fox are each expected to push both of their upcoming new scripted series, originally targeted for this coming midseason, to 2023-24. That includes NBC’s workplace comedy St. Denis Medical, starring Wendi McLendon-Covey, and medical drama Dr. Wolf, headlined by Zachary Quinto, as well as Fox’s medical drama Doc and lifeguard drama Rescue: Hi-Surf.
Additionally, two of CBS’ new series, drama Matlock, headlined by Kathy Bates, and comedy Poppa’s House, starring Damon Wayans and Damon Wayans Jr., are headed to next season, I hear.
According to sources, The Good Wife spinoff Elsbeth, starring Carrie Preston, and Tracker, toplined by Justin Hartley, remain on track for midseason.
Reps for CBS, NBC and Fox declined comment.
As Deadline reported last week, returning series will need between 3-6 weeks of prep and pre-production after the end of the strike before they can start filming new episodes. For new series, that timeframe is longer due to factors like casting, set building and relocation.
With the end of the SAG-AFTRA strike near but not here yet, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday breaks coming up, new series are facing extremely tight production schedules to be able to deliver episodes for a premiere in February or early March, a launch window that would allow for a meaningful freshman run within the broadcast season.
Given the stakes involved, the networks are opting to delay some launches instead of rushing new series into a crowded midseason field where they may fizzle or have too few episodes ready to make an impact and develop followings.
The challenge is biggest for Fox, which three years ago shifted from a pilot to straight-to-series model on the drama side. Unlike all other newly ordered broadcast scripted series this season, Doc and Rescue: Hi-Surf did not produce pilots, so casting has to start from scratch when the SAG-AFTRA strike is over.
Fox brass have been high on both projects, touting the franchise potential of the John Wells-produced Rescue: Hi-Surf, which was one of the first series to open a writers room immediately after the end of the WGA strike.
So, while back-and-forth with lead studios Sony TV (Doc) and Warner Bros. TV (Rescue: Hi-Surf) continue about this midseason, under the circumstances a fall 2024 launch when the shows can be promoted during NFL and baseball coverage is considered highly likely. The alternative would be an April-May premiere with no potent promotional platform available.
CBS originally had Matlock, a reboot of the classic series, and Elsbeth on the fall 2023 schedule, with Tracker and Poppa’s House on tap for midseason. Instead, NCIS: Sydney and repeats of Yellowstone and SEAL Team have been filling the network’s scripted fall void left by the strikes-related production shutdown. As a result, CBS is faced with the prospect of launching four new scripted series within a short window midseason, when viewers’ attention would likely be drawn to the delayed return of all the popular returning broadcast series.
The limited shelf space in spring 2024 explains the decision to move two of the four new shows to next season.
For Matlock, which has started a writers room, there is an additional reason for the scheduling move that I hear the producers are fully on board with. The Matlock pilot, one of the best received pilots internally in years, was filmed in Toronto, while the series production is relocating to Los Angeles and needs extra time to ramp up production including building sets.
For Tracker, the goal is to keep its lucrative post-Super Bowl launch slot, with lead producing studio 20th Television making it a priority to get production going as quickly as possible post-strike to make the high-profile delivery date. Tracker was piloted in summer 2022 and ordered to series last December, so a delay to next fall would make the gap between pilot and series launch to more than two years. (The other three new CBS series are all produced by CBS Studios.)
ABC has bet on reality programming, led by The Golden Bachelor, and NFL football this fall. Along with Fox, which has had original scripted fare in the fall through its Sunday animated block, the two networks are not expected to launch any new live-action scripted series this season. (Fox has new animated shows Krapopolis and Grimsburg.) That is a major precedent in a decimated broadcast season that networks are trying to salvage with partial seasons of their returning scripted series.
While NBC also likely won’t air any of the new scripted series it picked up through the 2023 pilot season as the Universal TV-produced St. Denis Medical and Dr. Wolf move to fall, the network has two new scripted series on the schedule in dramas Found and The Irrational, held from last season.
Both have done well, which should give hope to all the new shows earmarked for this season than are now being pushed to the next.