Nontraditional Approaches to Traditional TV Season

'The Golden Bachelor' on ABC
Gerry Turner will look for love — with the help of his daughters and granddaughters — on ABC’s ‘The Golden Bachelor.’ (Image credit: ABC/Brian Bowen Smith)

September still means something in the broadcast world. The traditional TV season begins with the kids in school and the weather starting to cool. But with the writers strike severely limiting the scripted content that’s available, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW are piecing together their schedules with reality, shows acquired from overseas and buzzy series borrowed from corporate siblings. 

The broadcast nets have seen their share of the viewing public plummet across the past decade. Will viewers watch the second-tier programming? 

Myles McNutt, Old Dominion University associate professor of communication, sees a few parallels between how the networks were programmed during the 2007-2008 strike and how they are doing so today. But it’s a much different state of affairs for broadcast TV in 2023. The previous strike “felt like a short-term interruption of a long-term biz model,” said McNutt. “Now it’s, how can broadcast TV recover from complete collapse? It seems more existential this time.”

The networks are loading up on unscripted programming, none more eye-opening than The Golden Bachelor on ABC, which sees a 71-year-old widower search for his soulmate. ABC hopes The Golden Bachelor pulls in viewers the way The Bachelor and The Bachelorette do. 

As the typical broadcast viewer gets older, some believe a show about a septuagenarian can find an audience. “Not long ago, most networks would say, why make a show where the target is likely 50-plus, when the only demographic people care about is 18-49?” Dom Caristi, professor emeritus at Ball State University’s media department, said. “Those days are gone.”

CBS is also expanding its top reality franchises, as the network goes 90-minutes-per-episode for both Survivor and The Amazing Race. McNutt believes supersize episodes are here to stay. “I have no doubt they’ll never go back to 60-minute Survivor episodes,” he said. “It’s a really easy strike move that clearly is going to become part of the permanent lineup.”

The networks are also licensing scripted shows from other nations to help fill the holes on their schedules, none more so than The CW. Dramas Sullivan’s Crossing and The Spencer Sisters, and comedies Run the Burbs and Children Ruin Everything, are among the Canadian shows set to debut on The CW. 

Brad Schwartz, entertainment president at The CW, had a bona fide hit with a Canadian import in the past. While at Pop TV, he put Schitt’s Creek on U.S. TV. “He has experience in that approach,” Zak Shaikh, Magid senior VP of global media and entertainment, said. 

Coming from the U.K. to The CW is comedy Everyone Else Burns, while drama The Swarm is a coproduction by broadcasters in Germany, Italy, France, Scandinavia and Japan.

Season three of hospital drama Transplant, also from Canada, begins on NBC October 5. 

Mary Dalton, professor of communication and film studies at Wake Forest, called the imports a smart idea. “I think it makes a lot of sense,” she said. “For the people who aren’t watching a bunch of British shows on PBS or Canadian shows on the streamers, it does expand their horizons a bit.”

‘Ghosts’ Back to Back

CBS has a hit in comedy Ghosts, inspired by Ghosts in the U.K. This fall, CBS will air both Ghosts series, back to back on Thursdays. 

“It’s content most Americans have not seen, but they do already have a connection,” Ball State’s Caristi said. “They get the premise because they’ve seen the American version.”

CBS will also debut Yellowstone, a hit on corporate sibling Paramount Network, on Sundays, starting with season one. Shaikh said the Western is a better match for CBS than Showtime drama Dexter was when CBS aired it in 2008 during the strike. “It’s a smart strategy in that it can fit for CBS better,” he said. 

Still, some believe Yellowstone is enough of a hit that many CBS viewers have seen it. “I find it difficult to believe that someone in the CBS broadcast demo is not aware of Yellowstone,” McNutt said. 

CBS will also air a couple of episodes from Paramount Plus’s Frasier reboot.

Peaked TV

For years, viewers have lamented that there’s just too much great TV for one person to possibly consume. With the writers and actors strikes limiting the amount of TV being made, that may no longer be an issue. 

“In the early days of peak TV, you used to feel like there were so many wonderful shows, and you can’t possibly keep up,” Dalton said. These days, “there are so many mediocre shows I don’t want to keep up with them all. It creates time to go back and see the things you may have missed.” 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.