Once one of the biggest nights on television, home of such hits as Golden Girls, Saturday has become a scripted wasteland where cancelled series go to air their final episodes.
The CW may change that. The network recently reached an agreement with its affiliates to take over Saturday primetime starting next fall. Today, the CW unveiled its fall 2021 schedule, with new episodes of Whose Line is It Anyway? and World’s Funniest Animals.
“At this time it’s alternative programming,” the CW chairman and CEO Mark Pedowitz said during a press call about the fall schedule Tuesday. “When we get to 2022, we will probably look at putting some scripted programming on but we have not fully fleshed that out, we’ve been more focused on 4Q of 21.”
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He would not elaborate whether these would be CW originals or acquisitions. We have seen a handful of acquired scripted shows on Saturdays in the past decade, most notably Ransom on CBS.
The last U.S.-made scripted series to regularly air on Saturdays was CBS drama The District, which ended its four-season run in 2004. CBS raised eyebrows in May 2011 when it unveiled a fall schedule featuring its returning sitcom Rules Of Engagement on Saturdays.
“We liked the idea of bringing something new to Saturday,” CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl, then-the network’s head of scheduling, said at the time. The move did not stick as Rules was quickly summoned to Thursday to replace new fall comedy series How To Be a Gentleman, which was banished to Saturdays after two low-rated airings.
Broadcast television pretty much closed the book on unscripted (non-newsmagazine) series on Saturday when Cops was cancelled by Fox in 2013. It has been largely sports, repeats and CBS’ 48 Hours on the night since.
Now the CW is bringing reality (and some improv) fare back to the night.
“We felt like Whose Line has worked in every time period we have put it in, we felt it was the perfect way to give ourselves depth and strength, and we found that World’s Funniest Animals for whatever reason worked over the pandemic anytime we put it on, audiences seem to like it,” Pedowitz said.
He explained the decision to expand network’s schedule to Saturdays with original programming.
“We felt that there is an opportunity here to increase our linear reach, which gives advertisers more programming inventory, and also gives our affiliates more programming,” he said. “In addition, it allows us to promote and market our Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays without that gap of Saturday interrupts=ing the Friday flow.”