CBS Renewal Status Report: ‘The Equalizer’, ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’, ‘Elsbeth’, ‘CSI: Vegas’ & ‘So Help Me Todd’

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Third in a series on broadcast network series renewalsCBS will have some painful cancellation decisions to make this spring. With three new drama series, NCIS: Origins, Matlock and Watson, on tap for next season, S.W.A.T. surprisingly uncanceled and the Australian NCIS: Sydney, originally only intended as a temporary replacement during the strike, also renewed for 2024-25, the network will have to do some slate purging to make room for the additions.

That will likely impact more than one of the remaining CBS drama series whose fate has not been determined, The Equalizer, NCIS: Hawai’i, Elsbeth, So Help Me Todd and CSI: Vegas, a group that includes the network’s current dramas with a female lead. It features series that would not be canceled under normal circumstances. CBS’ schedule this season has been performing well, led by new breakout hit Tracker, and all five dramas in limbo rank #22 or higher among all non-sports broadcast programs in linear Nielsen most current viewership ratings (2/12 to date). One of the already renewed CBS drama series, S.W.A.T., is just below that at #24.

Some decisions are expected to come in the next two weeks as CBS will be the first broadcaster to present their fall schedule on May 2. Some calls, like the one on Elsbeth, which only debuted a month and a half ago, may be delayed until after the upfronts.

Highest ranked in linear viewership among the five is The Equalizer, currently No.7 among all non-sports broadcast programs. The drama starring and executive produced by Queen Latifah, comes from NBCUniversal’s Universal Television, which is the lead studio, co-producing with CBS Studios. It is one of four drama series Uni TV produces for CBS, along with the FBI series, all of which were recently renewed, the flagship for three seasons.

According to sources, negotiations with Queen Latifah are currently in final stages, and the series is expected to be renewed for a fifth season contingent on her closing her deal, which I hear is expected shortly. (CBS and Uni TV have had difficult license fee negotiations but, given the popularity of the studio’s dramas on CBS, particularly FBI and The Equalizer, the two sides have found a way, which is expected to continue.)

So far, The Equalizer‘s seasons have been capped at 18 episodes, which is something some top talent request when signing on for a broadcast drama series. I hear under the new deal, the number of episodes could go up next season, possibly to 20, closer to the network’s goal of 22.

Also expected to continue on CBS next season is Elsbeth. One of the best reviewed broadcast drama series in years, the show comes from top CBS/CBS Studios creators Michelle and Robert King, it is part of The Good Wife franchise, giving the crime procedural formula a quirky twist, and it’s been doing well in the early going, especially in multi-platform viewing.

With only the series premiere factored in because of timing, Elsbeth is CBS’ eighth most-watched non-sports program over its first 35 days across linear and digital, ahead of Equalizer, the two FBI spinoffs and S.W.A.T. Despite the limited amount of data, the freshman has likely showed enough promise to earn another shot.

Among the three remaining dramas that are all on the bubble, NCIS: Hawai’i is the strongest performer with the best odds to come back, I hear.

Just an year ago, a renewal for Hawai’i would’ve been a no-brainer: it’s part of a storied franchise with solid rating and crossover potential with the mothership series that yielded big ratings in January 2023. But now, CBS already has three other NCIS series already locked for next season: the original series, renewed for Season 22, Sydney, returning for a second season, and the upcoming Young Gibbs prequel NCIS: Origins. There is also the Tony & Ziva NCIS spinoff series greenlighted by Paramount+, making for a crowded NCIS field.

There are strong arguments for keeping Hawai’i. It is currently #12 in linear viewership among all broadcast non-sports shows ahead of such TV staples as ABC’s 9-1-1 and NBC’s Law & Order: SVU and The Voice, and its multi-platform audience also is putting Hawai’i above several CBS dramas that already have been renewed, including FBI: Most Wanted, FBI: International and S.W.A.T.

As CBS Studios President David Stapf said in a recent interview about the NCIS franchise, Hawai’i also is “wholly unique” while being part of the franchise as the first NCIS series with a female lead, Vanessa Lachey, and with its Hawai’i locale. “We were just coming off Hawaii Five-0, a very successful show,” he said of the spinoff’s origins. “People love that setting, it plays well over the globe.”

The counter argument is all about shelf space (or lack thereof) and money. There is financial pressure on corporate level among all traditional media companies to curb spending amid a soft ad market. For CBS parent Paramount, there is the additional element of uncertainty over the company’s future.

Sources expect tough business conversations over NCIS: Hawai’i, which is likely to have to make budget cuts to continue — something most broadcast series are subjected to these days. I hear the best case scenario for the spinoff may be a partial Season 4 of about 13 or so episodes.

Freeing up space on the 2024-25 schedule just a bit is the fact that the final installment of veteran Blue Bloods consists of just 8 episodes, which is also the size of NCIS: Sydney‘s seasons. However, S.W.A.T. didn’t help the cause of bubble dramas by unexpectedly taking a slot next season with a 22-episode order.

So Help Me Todd, a surprise breakout last season, is now floating at the bottom of the viewership charts for CBS drama series, along with CSI: Vegas, now in its third season. They are the two lowest rated CBS dramas in total viewers (both linear and multi-platform) but again, they draw more viewers than series on other broadcast networks that have been safely renewed.

But at CBS, those viewership numbers are putting both shows in grave danger. Like Hawai’i, CSI: Vegas is part of a signature CBS/CBS Studios franchise with a long history on the network, which likely will be factored. But broadcast budgets are tight, so CSI and So Help Me Todd are considered heavily on the bubble.

CSI producer Bruckheimer Television has another CBS drama series, hot sophomore Fire Country, which has been renewed for next season and may spawn a Sheriff spinoff which is on a slower development track. There is also the potential Cold Case reboot from Bruckheimer TV and Warner Bros. TV, which has been in negotiations at CBS.

The network found itself in a similar position in 2021, which was resolved with two CBS dramas, SEAL Team and Evil, moving to Paramount+ as streaming originals. I hear that is not considered a viable option for the network’s bubble series this year .

While there is a lot of drama on the drama renewal front at CBS, things have been pretty straight forward in comedy.

Two series are ending this season, Young Sheldon and Bob Hearts Abishola, and two new ones are joining next season, the Young Sheldon spinoff about Georgie and Mandy and Poppa’s House (along with the renewed Ghosts and The Neighborhood).

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