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Fall TV 2020: 5 things to know about a very different kind of season

Chuck Barney
The Mercury News
A Kansas City Chiefs fan raises a fist during the national anthem at the Chiefs' home opener Thursday, September 10, 2020 against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star/TNS)

Rumors of television's COVID-related demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Yes, there will be a fall TV season this year. It will just look a lot different. (Example: For the first time in nearly 20 years, "Survivor" isn't part of the CBS fall lineup).

With that in mind, we present a cursory overview of the current state of the television industry and how it impacts what you can watch in the coming months. Here are five important things to know about fall TV programming:

1. Plan on late arrivals: Because of production delays, most new and returning scripted series won't make their traditional September debuts. Many hadn't even been scheduled as of this writing. The few that are scheduled — such as NBC's "This Is Us" and "The Blacklist" — won't premiere until early to mid-November. Our advice: Refer often to the ever-changing fall TV calendar.

2. Hand-me-downs galore: With so many holes to fill, the networks will rely on shows imported from other platforms or countries. CBS, for example, will air "Star Trek: Discovery," from the CBS All Access streaming site, and "One Day at a Time," a comedy reboot that originated on Netflix, was canceled and then made its way to Pop TV. Meanwhile, Fox has "L.A.'s Finest," a crime drama that originally aired on the Spectrum cable system.

The networks also went beyond U.S. borders to find content. Two examples: The NBC medical drama "Transplant" is a Canadian production, and The CW has "Devils," a financial thriller made in Italy.

3. Throw out the script: Also filling the gaps will be plenty of reality TV and game shows. At least early on, ABC will lean heavily on fare like "Celebrity Family Feud," "Press Your Luck" and "Match Game," along with "Dancing With the Stars," "Shark Tank" and "The Bachelorette."

Then in October, ABC will debut "Supermarket Sweep," a revival of a game show that first aired in the 1960s.

4. Exhibiting some shelf life: On the bright side, some shows that were originally planned for earlier this year but were held back will finally surface. Fox, for example, will finally air the soapy Kim Cattrall drama "Filthy Rich" and the sci-fi event series "Next." On cable, three miniseries originally pegged for spring or summer — "Fargo" (FX), "The Undoing" (HBO) and "The Good Lord Bird" (Showtime) — will be among fall's most anticipated offerings.

5. Football still rules: The NFL is always a huge ratings draw (NBC's "Sunday Night Football" averaged 20.5 million viewers per game last year). Now with network programming delayed and stadiums drastically limiting attendance, the games could attract even more viewers who are ready for some football — and a sense of normalcy.

That's all contingent, of course, on whether the NFL can complete its regular 256-game schedule without pandemic-related hitches.