NBC is going all in on “This Is Us.”
The weepy family drama, which made a splash last year as a surprise breakout hit, will return to NBC this fall on Thursdays, a very prestigious night on broadcast TV — particularly for NBC, which is reviving its famous “Must See TV” brand for the upcoming 2017-2018 TV season.
“We think [‘This Is Us’] is peerless at the moment in broadcast television,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters in a conference call Sunday, the beginning of broadcast upfront week, in which networks unveil their fall schedules. “So we decided to move it to Thursday night — and not just throw it there and hope for the best, but strategically surround it with shows we think are very strong. Our hope is it creates the return of ‘Must See TV’ on Thursday.”
This fall, Thursdays will kick off at 8 p.m. with a 12-episode revival of “Will & Grace” — which, fittingly, was part of the 1990s “Must See TV” lineup, the network’s unbeatable comedy slate that included “Friends” and “Seinfeld.” The night continues at 8:30 p.m. with “Great News,” the Tina Fey-produced comedy set at a local news station; executives hinted that Fey will be “popping into” the show next season. “This Is Us” is at 9 p.m., followed by “Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders,” the latest twist on Dick Wolf’s long-running franchise.
“This Is Us” also lands the much-coveted, post-Super Bowl time slot, which airs on NBC in February. But football won’t always be so kind to the series: The drama is preempted for six weeks when NBC airs NFL’s Thursday Night Football starting in November. However, Greenblatt promised that despite the on-again, off-again schedule that can torpedo a show’s momentum, executives have “some ideas to keep the show alive even when there aren’t episodes on the air.” One possibility: A tie-in with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who play a special part of the “This Is Us” family story, and have a game on NBC on Nov. 16. (It would be ideal, Greenblatt joked, if the Steelers went to the Super Bowl.)
Elsewhere, NBC’s slate stays largely the same; the only other new series on the fall schedule is “The Brave,” about a Washington-based team of analysts and Special Ops forces that team up for dangerous missions across the world. The drama, starring Anne Heche as the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, debuts after “The Voice,” the hit singing competition that recently signed on Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson as judges, on Monday nights at 10 p.m.
“The Voice’s” second weekly episode will also give a boost to comedies “Superstore” and “The Good Place” on Tuesday nights, while dramas “Blindspot” and “Taken” move to Fridays. And “Timeless,” the freshman time-travel drama that was initially canceled until the network changed its mind last week, will return in 2018.
Speaking of “The Voice,” does NBC regret that ABC recently snatched up the rights to a rebooted version of “American Idol”?
Not so much. Greenblatt said the network is working on its own music shows, so they don’t need “Idol.” And Paul Telegdy, NBC’s president of reality and alternative programming, offered this sick burn-slash-explanation: “The audience hadn’t told us there was a compelling reason to bring it back, either.”
FALL 2017 PRIME-TIME LINEUP ON NBC
New shows are in bold
8 p.m.: “The Voice”
10 p.m.: “The Brave”
8 p.m.: “The Voice”
9 p.m.: “Superstore” *
9:30 p.m.: “The Good Place” *
10 p.m.: “Chicago Fire”
8 p.m.: “The Blacklist” *
9 p.m.: “Law & Order: SVU”
10 p.m.: “Chicago P.D.”
8 p.m.: “Will & Grace”
8:30 p.m.: “Great News”
9 p.m.: “This Is Us” *
10 p.m.: “Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders”
8 p.m.: “Blindspot” *
9 p.m.: “Taken” *
10 p.m.: “Dateline NBC”
7 p.m.: “Football Night in America”
8:20 p.m.: “Sunday Night Football”
* Moved to a new time slot