By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Broadcast television networks kick off the fall TV season this month with strike-depleted lineups featuring game shows, reruns and a 72-year-old widower looking for love in the reality TV dating pool.
ABC’s “The Golden Bachelor,” in which 22 women aged 60 to 75 compete for the affection of a Midwestern grandfather, is among the unscripted series peppering prime-time schedules.
Over on Fox, no-nonsense chef Gordon Ramsay will work double shifts with shows airing on two nights. CBS extended summer reality favorite “Big Brother” so it could run into November.
Networks are trying to fill gaps created when Hollywood writers walked off the job in May, shutting down comedy and drama sets just as they were gearing up to film fall shows. Actors joined the picket lines in July for the first dual Hollywood work stoppage in 63 years.
The fall season has been a staple of American TV for decades, the time to roll out the best that broadcast TV has to offer.
“It’s going to be a patchwork of different genres and whatever they have in the can that they can run,” media consultant Brad Adgate said of the broadcast schedules.
New episodes of scripted shows will be in much shorter supply. ABC’s hit comedy “Abbott Elementary,” Paramount Network’s top-rated drama “Yellowstone” and NBC’s long-running crime series “Law & Order” will show reruns.
ABC’s entire Thursday night lineup consists of game shows: “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” “Press Your Luck” and “The $100,000 Pyramid.” The Walt Disney-owned network has no new scripted programming on its fall schedule.
“Move over, Hot Labor Summer. It’s time for Sad TV Fall,” the Los Angeles Times wrote.
CATERING TO OLDER VIEWERS
Broadcast television already faced major challenges as younger audiences switched to streaming.
The average age of broadcast viewers was 62, according to Nielsen data from November of last season, compared with 40 on streaming.
Today, the biggest drama on broadcast draws around 10 million viewers, compared with roughly 20 million a decade ago.
Adding to the tumult, ABC has gone dark in nearly 15 million homes because of a dispute between Disney and cable TV provider Charter Communications.
While the strikes compounded problems for broadcast executives, they said they had planned ahead and applied lessons learned when COVID-19 abruptly halted production, forcing them to rewrite schedules and seek overseas programming they could bring to U.S. audiences.
“We’ve navigated through the pandemic and that has helped us think about how to prepare for this,” said Dan Harrison, executive vice president of program planning and content strategy for Fox Entertainment.
Fox is bringing back Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” which ended a decade ago, on Mondays and will continue his “Hell’s Kitchen” series on Thursdays.
The network also will benefit from its recent focus on adult animation. Next to new episodes of “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers,” Fox will introduce “Krapopolis” about a city run by a family of humans, gods and monsters. Writing of those shows was completed well before the strikes because animation takes longer to produce.
Comcast’s NBC started some of its drama productions earlier than usual in preparation for a potential strike, said Steve Kern, senior vice president of program planning and strategy for NBC Entertainment.
NBC has scheduled fresh episodes of five scripted dramas, including “Magnum P.I.,” newcomer “Found” and a Canadian series, “Transplant.”
“Our schedule is largely returning intact,” Kern said.
One thing missing from NBC: new installments in creator Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” and “Chicago” franchises. The network will air repeats.
‘YELLOWSTONE’ JOINS SUNDAY LINEUP
Despite the shake-ups, executives see opportunities.
Paramount Global hopes to turn new fans on to “Yellowstone,” which has been running on the Paramount Network cable channel and streaming on Peacock.
The first season of the drama about a wealthy ranch owner played by Kevin Costner will air on CBS, also owned by Paramount, after “Sunday Night Football” and “60 Minutes.”
For scripted shows, CBS will run the British edition of hit comedy “Ghosts,” and the first international version of the “NCIS” franchise, set in Sydney.
Viewers can turn to streaming services for new series, though they too have seen popular dramas such as “Stranger Things” and “Euphoria” shut down by the strikes.
Netflix just released “One Piece,” a live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series about pirates, and Apple TV+ will release a new season of “The Morning Show” next week. A reboot of “Frasier” starring Kelsey Grammer will debut on Paramount+ in November.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)