NBC sure is a fickle pickle these days.
Dan Fogelman's breakout tearjerker was supposed to shift to Thursdays next season, in a gangsta move by NBC. It was part of a Must-See TV revival, with Will & Grace, Great News and new limited series Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. It was bold, ballsy... And then they balked. Now, This Is Us will remain in its Tuesday-at-9 post, bringing The Menendez Murders with it as a lead-out.
Superstore and The Good Place, which had relocated to the 9 p.m. hour on Tuesdays, will now move back to their original slots in the 8 p.m. hour on Thursdays. That pushes Will & Grace and Great News back an hour, which would then lead into Chicago Fire at 10.
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NBC backpedaled ostensibly so the serialized This Is Us won't be interrupted by Thursday Night Football starting Nov. 9. (NBC also has the Winter Olympics in February.) Theories abound as to who or what instigated this undoing (Executives? Fogelman? The studio? Lack of advertising $$$?) -- it's not like they just found out 24 hours ago that they'll have football in November, you know? -- but This Is Us will emerge just fine from this switcheroo, or lack thereof. It's back in its post-Voice home base, and won't have to navigate a six-week pigskin pre-emption.
But what about the other parties? Here are the winners and losers of NBC's big reversal.
OPA was going to face off with the Pearsons, which surely had Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) mouth-quivering more than usual. The series plummeted 34 percent last season and would only have suffered more against the similarly female-skewing This Is Us. With the family drama out of the way, Scandal can hopefully recover buzz and eyeballs for its final hurrah.
Losers: Superstore, The Good Place and Great News
The non-Will & Grace comedies in this swap drew the short straw here. But it's a not a completely raw deal for them: The former two are back where they aired last season, and Superstore has proven to be a self-starter; while Great News will still have a Will & Grace lead-in to improve its paltry ratings. But the initial schedule would've been far more beneficial to all of them. Superstore and The Good Place would've drafted off of The Voice, and Great News would've also been aided by the early birds who would tune in for lead-out This Is Us. Plus, The Good Place should be insulted if "serialization" ends up being the reasoning for the switch -- it's just as serialized as This Is Us, and had to deal with football pre-emptions last season. But NBC's clearly more willing to sacrifice Good Place again, than its crown jewel.
Winner: Will & Grace
Will & Grace, a multi-cam, kicking off Thursdays and leading into the other three single-cam comedies probably would've made for better flow; but shifting it back an hour means it won't battle ABC's sturdy Grey's Anatomy and CBS' moneymaker The Big Bang Theory (after CBS' own Thursday Night Football coverage). It also means Will & Grace is back in its old Thursdays-at-9 stomping grounds, where it aired during its heyday. Nostalgia is real, guys.
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The Chuck Lorre sitcom has been holding it down for CBS Thursdays-at-9 for two years against a bunch of dramas and reality shows. It will now go head-to-head with a comedy for the first time when it returns in November. Mom probably wishes that comedy wasn't the highly anticipated Will & Grace.
Fox dispatched Monday regular Gotham to lead off Thursdays next season. It'll still likely get clobbered by Grey's and Big Bang (and football), but stands a better chance against Superstore and The Good Place than Will & Grace (and Great News).
Loser: The Grey's Anatomy firefighter spin-off
The untitled firefighter spin-off (we're partial to Hose Before Bros) is slated for midseason and will probably follow Grey's somehow, whether in the 9 p.m. hour or by replacing How to Get Away with Murder when it finishes its season at 10 p.m. But is there enough room on Thursdays for two firefighter shows? NBC is marking its territory there with Chicago Fire, and Shonda Rhimes does not need another comparison to Dick Wolf.
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Winner: Chicago Fire
ChiFi relocating from its four-year home at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays was a huge surprise that peeved/worried fans. But this was the best move NBC could've made, given the other changes. Thursdays-at-10 has been a problem slot for NBC since ER ended in 2009 -- Parenthood and The Blacklist have done fine but not amazing there, and the latter has been slipping -- so putting a veteran, established and franchised show there behind a soft lead-in (Great News) is a safe bet. Chicago Fire is not lead-in-dependent -- it was never hurt by Trial & Error and Great News in the spring -- so it can lift the time period against light competition in How to Get Away with Murder, which dropped 26 percent last year, and CBS' S.W.A.T., which doesn't premiere until November.
Loser: NBC on Thursdays
Headlined by This Is Us in the original schedule, NBC had a very good shot of taking back its beloved Thursday nights (sans football) and re-establishing Must-See TV. It's unclear if the network will still revive the brand with the new lineup, which is ironically a classic Must-See TV slate -- a two-hour comedy block and a one-hour drama -- but it won't be as potent without This Is Us there.
Winner: ABC's and Fox's Tuesday comedies
ABC and Fox are wiping off that flop sweat now, as is your DVR. Superstore and The Good Place decamping back to Thursdays means we won't get the three-network comedy brawl on Tuesdays in the 9 p.m. hour. This is good news for The Mick, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Black-ish and The Mayor, but particularly for Black-ish, which is heading to Tuesdays to anchor one of ABC's two comedy blocks. It's a steady performer that's growing in buzz and acclaim, and ought to settle in nicely into its new home with diminished competition.