NBC has ordered a trio of additional episodes for the new drama series Manifest, but this is not a case of playing it safe. Traditionally when a network series debuts during the fall season, it does so with 13 episodes in the can. Then, depending on how the show does ratings-wise, a network might order nine additional episodes (called a “back nine”) to consist of a full season’s worth of episodes—22 in total. With Manifest, however, NBC is taking a page out of cable’s book by allowing the drama series to conclude its first season with just 16 episodes, rather than have to draw the story out to 22.
The show revolves around the passengers of a flight that experienced turbulence on its way back to New York City, during which the power in the plane went out. The plane recovered quickly, but when it landed in New York City the flight’s passengers and crew were shocked to discover they’ve all been missing and presumed dead for more than five years. Each week’s episode features a procedural element as the passengers returned to lives that had moved on without them, as well as an ongoing mythology hook regarding what exactly happened to the plane.
This order of three additional episodes is good news both for the writers of Manifest and fans of the show. Back when Damon Lindelof was making LOST, he and co-showrunner Carlton Cuse famously lobbied ABC to let them set a finite endpoint for the series. A show that serialized could only go on for so long, and by Season 3 they were running out of the steam necessary to create 22 hours of content each year. ABC reluctantly acquiesced, and the subsequent seasons consisted of no more than 18 episodes each year. Now seasons of 13 episodes are the norm on cable networks, while broadcast networks continue to stick to the 22-episode seasons to fill out air time necessary for ads.
So yes, Manifest will at the very least conclude its first season, and a Season 2 pickup is probably likely if the ratings remain strong. The show airs on NBC Mondays at 10pm ET.