CBS Shortens Seasons Of NCIS(s), Magnum, Bull, SEAL Team & More

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30 Oct 20

CBS Shortens Seasons Of NCIS(s), Magnum, Bull, SEAL Team & More

As CBS releases the return dates for most of their “Fall” shows in America, the US network has also confirmed that at least eight of them will have shorter seasons than usual this year. Whilst that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to fans, it will leave some of them disappointed.

The change in episode number is (as you probably expected) due to the current global pandemic, which forced productions to start filming much later than normal, and added a stack of additional guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The shows affected are ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ (normally 24 episodes) and ‘The Neighborhood’ (normally 22 episodes), which have been trimmed down to 18 episodes, whilst ‘Blue Bloods’ (22), ‘Bull’ (22), ‘Magnum P.I.’ (20), ‘NCIS’ (24), ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ (24) and ‘SEAL Team’ (22) have all been reduced to 16 episodes each. CBS is still working out the episode counts with producers for ‘FBI’, ‘FBI Most Wanted’, ‘S.W.A.T.’, ‘Young Sheldon’, ‘Mom’‘Bob Hearts Abishola’, ‘All Rise’ and new comedy ‘B Positive’, but they are also expected to have reduced season orders. Comedy ‘The Unicorn’ will stick at the planned 13 episodes.

Whilst the late start does factor into the trimming of episodes for this season, the other side of the issue is purely the cost. The essential COVID-related safety protocols have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to production budgets for each episode, not only due to the straight-up cost of the protective equipment (PPE), but also due to the additional time it takes to shoot an episode in the pandemic. Every show is taking on average at least an extra day to produce as they have to test people, and move them around sets to maintain distance, rather than everyone being able to work in close proximity. It’s the old problem that “time is money” in this business, so they need to find a way to balance out their budgets, and the most sensible way to do that is to trim the episode numbers.

What we don’t yet know is whether this will have an effect on the UK broadcast of these shows. The two shows we do have some information on, are ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ and ‘Magnum P.I.’ which are both currently set to return in their usual December slot on Sky One (i.e. very, very late December/early Jan).

Speculating on the other shows (NOTE: this is speculation and not confirmed), ‘SEAL Team’ has usually launched in the UK a few weeks after the US in October, but given it isn’t returning in the US until late November this year, it seems likely that could move to Early 2021. ‘Blue Bloods’, ‘FBI’, ‘FBI Most Wanted’, and ‘S.W.A.T.’ have all been airing some distance behind the USA on Sky in the UK, so it’s hard to gauge whether the changes will affect the UK air dates in any way. ‘NCIS’ usually airs in January on FOX UK so that will likely stay the same. ‘Bull’ and ‘NCIS: New Orleans’, also on FOX UK, already air months behind the US so will likely continue to do so. The UK air date for ‘Young Sheldon’ will very much depend on when the E4 schedulers emerge from their drunken stupor and are sober enough to randomly start adding new series to the schedule.

Although CBS has been the first US network to fully confirm they are reducing the episode numbers this season, expect most US dramas across all networks to follow suit as we get further into production. We’ll let you know when we hear of more changes down the line.