Dick Wolf is ready to dominate another night of television.
The superstar producer of Law & Order and the One Chicago franchises discusses the decision to have Tuesdays on CBS filled with FBI shows. As Wolf explains, this is just a progression of TV these days and is confident this franchise will have a huge audience.
Dick Wolf and his franchise successes
Few producers in television can boast such a successful track record as Dick Wolf.
After time as a writer on various shows, Wolf convinced NBC to take a chance on a 1990 series called Law & Order. After a slow start, the series was soon one of the network’s biggest hits.
It launched a franchise with six spin-offs, one of which, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, holds the record as the longest-running scripted primetime drama.
Wolf then made Chicago Fire a hit that created its own spin-off of Chicago P.D., Chicago Med and the short-lived Chicago Justice. This One Chicago universe now dominates NBC on Wednesdays.
Wolf then joined CBS to create FBI in 2018. The series was such an instant hit that a spin-off, FBI: Most Wanted, was created late in the first season of its own run.
This fall, CBS moved NCIS from its established place on Tuesdays to allow “The FBIs” to have the night in grand style.
Wolf on the FBI crossover and future
It starts on FBI Season 4’s premiere, then to the Season 3 premiere of FBI: Most Wanted and concludes on the premiere of FBI: International.
The case involves a kidnapping leading to an international crime ring which Wolf claims was inspired by real-life events.
“The crossover embodies what these shows are supposed to be. All the shows are fiction, I start with that, but there are certain elements that will remind the audience of Jeffrey Epstein [and] other people who have been in the papers over the past year [such as] Ghislaine Maxwell. It’s really exciting. It’s not the same story, but it’s a story that, in its scale, not only justifies but thrives on three hours in a row,” he explained.
Wolf went on to discuss giving the FBI franchise its own night, alluding to the success of the One Chicago shows and that it’s easier for the audience to accept a franchise sharing the same night.
“I don’t know if I’m supposed to do this, but there is another group of three shows on another network… We know this works, that there are certain dynamics that are just true. When you stack these shows, you know, you can look at research that tells you that everybody talks about binges, and people bingeing series. And watching them all on three nights. These are streaming series where the average order is eight [episodes]. And you can get through a whole bunch of episodes, but the average binge is three hours. That seems to be where people are most comfortable if they’re going to sit down and watch something.”
Networks using ‘franchise nights’
It seems Wolf was onto something as several networks have attempted to create “franchise nights” using shows from the same universe for a night of TV.
NBC had planned for Thursdays to be “Law & Order Thursdays” with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, followed by Law & Order: Organize Crime and the new Law & Order: For The Defense.
That was ended when NBC halted development on Law & Order: For The Defense, but the other two Law & Order series will still air together.
Wolf is aware there may be doubters in this approach but used his experience to detail that viewers have changed how they watch TV shows and how networks respond to that.
“And after forty years of doing this, the one thing I know is that if you set the table correctly, for an American television audience, they’ll stay. We’re all basically lazy, you know, there is no more appointment television, the way there was twenty years ago, even ten years ago. Now, you can get a complete fix, and you don’t have to move. And people are very content to go from 8 [p.m.] to 11 [p.m.] if they’re being entertained. And I think these shows will do a hell of a job of entertaining people. And the proof is in the first two [shows], we’re just adding on dessert.”
Given his amazing track record with hit franchises, Wolf’s words no doubt carry weight and a reason why CBS is letting the FBI franchise dominate Tuesdays as a night of exciting television.
FBI Tuesdays begins Tuesday September 21 with the FBI Season 4 premiere at 8/7c on CBS.