CBS Trims Episode Orders As Broadcast Series On All Nets Face Abbreviated Runs In COVID Impacted 2020-21 Season

The coronavirus pandemic cut short the 2019-20 seasons of most broadcast series as production shut down in mid-March. Now the continuing effects from the pandemic are altering the course of the 2020-21 season, with late launches and shorter runs for scripted series.

Your Complete Guide to Pilots and Straight-to-Series orders

CBS has trimmed the orders to its scripted series from CBS Studios from full-season 22 to 16-18 episodes, including the NCIS franchise, Blue Bloods, Bull, The Neighborhood, SEAL Team, Magnum PI and Bull. (The Unicorn, which had a 13-episode initial order, will remain at 13).The network is still in conversations with outside studios, including Mom, Young Sheldon, Bob Hearts Abishola, B Positive and All Rise producer Warner Bros. TV, Universal TV, which is behind the FBI franchise, and S.W.A.T‘s Sony Pictures TV. Those series also are expected to end up producing seasons in the 16-18 episode range.

This is not limited to CBS — with the broadcast scripted series’ start of production staggered and delayed by the pandemic leading to late October/November season launches, most network scripted shows will air abbreviated seasons. In addition to scheduling — the late show premieres means that networks will need fewer episodes to get through the end of the broadcast season in May — the increased cost of production also is believed to have played a role in these decisions. Implementing COVID-19 safety protocols adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to the production budget of each episode this year.

While some comedy series could get to a traditional full season order — ABC’s black-ish and Fox’s Last Man Standing, for example, are currently picked up for 21 episodes each — most drama series are expected to air 18 or fewer episodes this season.

Here are the modified 2020-21 episode orders for CBS scripted series from CBS Studios:


BULL (16)



NCIS (16)

NCIS: LA (18)



THE UNICORN (13, nc)

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