How This Is Us Final Seasons Olympics Break Actually Helps NBC and Fans

The Pearson family will be hitting the bench for a few weeks as the final season of “This Is Us” is bumped from NBC’s primetime schedule — along with all of the network’s other regularly slated comedies and dramas —  to bring in the Beijing Winter Olympics.

While many “This Is Us” fans may not want to part with new episodes of the show in favor of figure-skating, curling and bobsledding competitions from Feb. 2-20, those viewers should know they were going to lose the Pearsons for three weeks this season, with or without the 2022 Olympics.

“We don’t love having it off for two weeks [during the Olympics], but those two weeks would have been repeats or preempts anyway, because there’s 18 episodes and 21 weeks,” Steve Kern, head of scheduling for NBC, told Variety. “And so it actually helps us. We think for the last season it’s a much better viewing experience for the fans to know every week that the show is on, that it’s going to be an original episode.”

“This Is Us” aired the fourth episode of its sixth and final season Tuesday, and it will skip its slot on Feb. 8 and Feb. 14 for the Olympics, returning with a new episode on Feb. 22. The show will then once again be pulled on March 1 for President Joe Biden’s televised “State of the Union” address. But after that, it’s back on March 8 with new episodes airing each week through its series finale.

“When we made the decision to hold ‘This Is Us’ for January, we knew it was going to have to come off for not only the two weeks of the Olympics, but also for a third week because ‘The State of the Union’ is usually on a Tuesday,” Kern said. “So we knew going in that was part of the plan. And for ‘This Is Us,’ we felt like the best way for the fans was basically to have all 18 original episodes over 21 weeks. So we planned in the two preemptions for the Olympics and the one preemption for ‘The State of the Union’ when we came up with this plan.”

Of course, “This Is Us” is not the only NBC primetime show that gets sidelined when the Olympics come around, and Kern appreciates the temporary replacement for the series even more.

“So for the ‘Chicago’ shows, we have 22 episodes. The season is 35 weeks. So that means there’s 12 or 13 weeks that we have to schedule either repeats or preemptions to get the shows to fit into the season. I’m more than happy to have a preemption that I know is going to do well, which is the Winter Olympics,” Kern said.

There will be more than 2,800 hours of Beijing Olympics coverage across NBC, Peacock, USA Network, CNBC, and the NBC Sports app throughout the Winter Games, meaning NBC isn’t the only NBCUniversal property that has to think about shifting things around to accommodate. And for USA Network, which has taken over as the company’s cable sports hub following the shuttering of NBC Sports Channel, that means even more hours to account for than its broadcast sibling.

“USA now being the cable home for the Olympics, we’re going to get, if not the very best of the best, we’re going to get the second best,” Rebecca Vazquez-Rhodes, head of scheduling for USA Network, told Variety. “They really are prioritizing USA to try to solidify that destination and let people know that they can come and they can get high-quality events around the clock. And I think that differentiates us a little bit from NBC, because if NBC is not on the air and there’s a gold-medal match, we’re going to get it.”

While NBC is using the Olympics to promote the upcoming debuts of “AGT: Extreme,” drama “The Endgame,” limited series “The Thing About Pam” and the “Law & Order” revival, USA Network has its own forthcoming originals to find an audience for during the games: the fourth season of “Temptation Island” and new series “Mud, Sweat & Beards.”

“‘Temptation Island’ is going to be first in March, and then at the beginning of April, we’re going to have ‘Mud, Sweat & Beards,’” Vazquez-Rhodes said. “We’re kind of using the wrestling audience, really, for that ‘Mud, Sweat & Beards’ crowd, and then ‘Temptation’ skews a little more female, but it really is that broad Olympics audience that we are hoping to pull into Season 4.”

Premiere dates for both “Temptation Island” and “Mud, Sweat & Beards” have not been set — but you’re sure to find out when they will debut if you’re watching the Olympics on USA.

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