Stability and strength. That was NBC's message to advertisers last week, when it announced just five new shows covering 31/2 hours of its fall prime time schedule. Four nights will return intact next season: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
NBC is sitting pretty right now: No. 1 in households and the key demographic categories of adults 18-49 and 25-54 for the season. And it's also No. 1 among adults 18-49 in most other dayparts, including early morning, daytime, and late night and news. It also had the top-rated new comedy (Scrubs) and the highest-rated new drama (Law & Order: Criminal Intent).
Asked what his toughest decision was for the new schedule, NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said it was moving Scrubs
from Tuesday to Thursday as lead-out to Friends
at 8:30. But, after a year of growth and nurturing, he said, "what we're doing is the same thing NBC has done on Thursdays for many years": moving a nurtured show into the white-hot glare of Thursday night where the expectations are enormous. "It's time to step up," he said of the program. "It's a terrific show."
Still, he added, it would be unrealistic to expect it to retain its entire Friends
Zucker believes the network has one new comedy, In-Laws, that's strong enough to lead off Tuesday. (Conventional wisdom would suggest launching it behind a strong, established show that would give it a decent lead-in audience.) "We think it's such a universal premise and has such a break-out star in Dennis Farina that, given the audience that's available at 8 o'clock, In-Laws
is the right call there." Zucker observed that Just Shoot Me
have worked well together.
New for the fall
Good Morning Miami
A TV station hires
a wunderkind TV producer (Mark Feuerstein) to fix the local morning show. Supporting cast includes Suzanne Pleshette. Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, the Emmy-winning creators of Will & Grace, are executive producers and writers. From Warner Bros.
—Life in the 'burbs. The upfront clip had a running joke about dog poop getting tossed over a hedge into a neighbor's BBQ. Paula Marshall stars. Peter Segal and Rick Swartzlander are writers and executive producers. From NBC Studios and Primarily Entertainment.
—Newlyweds (Dennis Farina and Jean Smart) move in with the bride's parents. Mark Reisman (Frasier, Wings) and Kelsey Grammer are executive producers. From NBC Studios, Paramount Television and Grammnet Productions.
—Set in the 1960s, the show follows a family from the Kennedy assassination to Watergate. Clark and Jonathan Price are the executive producers. From NBC Studios and Universal Television.
An ensemble cast fights crime in LA. Graham Yost (Band of Brothers) and Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) are executive producers. From NBC Studios and DreamWorks Television.
Ready for midseason
—After a less-than-spectacular debut this season, this Julia Louis-Dreyfus vehicle will return for a limited midseason run without that gimmicky clock that counts down, in real time, the 22 minutes in each episode. From NBC Studios.
It's Not About Me
—A young lawyer (Jason Bateman) gives up his fast-track career to teach. He's got a buddy (Greg Grunberg) and a love interest (Nikki Cox). Jonathan Groff (Late Night With Conan O'Brien) and Vic Kaplan (Ellen) are executive producers. From NBC Studios.
This limited-run series pits the DEA against a family-run drug cartel, but the stars are the bad guys. "It's like nothing you've even seen on network television," says NBC's Jeff Zucker. Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent are executive producers. From NBC Studios and Spelling Television.
—A prison reformer and political California scion (Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.) is appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat in Washington. O'Donnell is the executive producer. From NBC Studios and Universal Television.