The Dick Wolf universe of shows on network TV just keeps growing, as CBS has officially given a series order to the second FBI spinoff for the 2021-2022 broadcast season while also renewing FBI for Season 4 and FBI: Most Wanted for Season 3. While on the surface the order for FBI: International as the latest FBI spinoff seems significant primarily for FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, and secondarily for One Chicago and the Law & Order series over on NBC, the series order raises some questions about NCIS' future on CBS.
Before we get into the NCIS of the situation, let's take a look at what FBI: International scoring a series order could mean for the CBS primetime lineup next season. Like FBI: Most Wanted before it, FBI: International will launch as a backdoor pilot/crossover with FBI and Most Wanted, with the event airing in the 2021-2022 TV season.
FBI and Most Wanted currently air back-to-back on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, which suggests that CBS could follow NBC's footsteps with One Chicago and debut one full night of Dick Wolf programming, perhaps adding International at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesdays. Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas and Chicago P.D. showrunner Rick Eid are both attached to International as executive producers. And the potential for International joining FBI and Most Wanted on one night of primetime is where we run into the potential implications for NCIS in the 2021-2022 TV season.
The long-running CBS series is currently in its 18th season, but a renewal for Season 19 is far from guaranteed at this point, with star Mark Harmon potentially leaving. NCIS: New Orleans is already ending this season; could the order for FBI: International and CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl hyping the now-three FBI shows as "creating an enviable triple-threat for next season" be a sign that the end is nigh for NCIS and CBS needs something high-profile to replace it in its slot?
Assuming that NCIS is ending at the close of this season based on FBI getting another spinoff is admittedly a big leap, but the success of Dick Wolf's One Chicago Wednesdays over on NBC combined with how well FBI and Most Wanted have been doing paired in primetime would make it a pretty logical move to create a full block of primetime with FBI, Most Wanted, and International. If that's the case and multiple shows aren't going to be moved, the change for NCIS could be as simple as returning for Season 19 on a new night in a new time slot.
FBI: International could definitely mean change for NCIS' future, if indeed NCIS does have a future beyond 2021. Personally, I think that CBS is going to group the three FBI shows on one night, even if that means NCIS ending, or either CBS moving NCIS or finding a new slot for two returning shows and one freshman series rather than just the one. It is worth noting that FBI: International, which will follow the elite agents of the FBI’s International division as they travel the world with the mission of protecting Americans, presumably won't have as many opportunities for crossover as the U.S.-based FBI and Most Wanted, however.
That said, FBI and Most Wanted, not to mention One Chicago on NBC and even Grey's Anatomy/Station 19 over on ABC (for now, at least) prove that grouping shows in a shared universe generally works, so much so that NBC will be doing it again with Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime. I believe change is in store for NCIS as of the end of the 2020-2021 TV season; only time will tell if I'm correct and just how much change is coming.