Last year's NBC upfront presentation did not go over too well. Outside of a standing ovation for The West Wing, the Madison Ave. crowd didn't buy into the network's new batch of shows or its overall strategy. Needless to say, only one new series managed to get past Christmas, and NBC's top programming executive Garth Ancier was let go midway through the season.
This week, former Today executive producer and new NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker unveils the network's fall 2001 lineup, hoping for stronger results and a better reception from advertisers.
NBC is expected to announce a schedule that includes two weekly installments of quiz show Weakest Link and six new series—three comedies and three dramas. The network is also going to offer a series of specials. Among the specials planned, BROADCASTING & CABLE has learned, are four featuring Jennifer Lopez. NBC is also committed to a half-hour comedy that is loosely based on Lopez's family and the neighborhood in which she grew up.
NBC is expected to add a pair of new dramas on Sunday evening in the fall, including the third series from Law & Order
producer Dick Wolf. Sunday will start with Weakest Link at 8 p.m. and be followed by Law & Order: Criminal Intent at 9. Criminal Intent
goes behind the scenes with NYPD detectives in the "major cases" division. Undercover, an action drama with an LAPD elite unit starring Jon Seda, will follow at 10.
New drama Crossing Jordan, which stars former Law & Order standout Jill Hennessy, will likely be shown at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays. The series from NBC Studios follows a Boston medical examiner who attempts to solve murder cases on her own.
Strong test-group results helped get TV chef Emeril Lagasse's sitcom on the schedule, sources say. The NBC Studios comedy Emeril will lead off Tuesday nights at 8 and go behind the scenes with the Food Network centerpiece. NBC programmers are giving midseason sitcom Three Sisters a shot on the fall schedule, placing it at 8:30 on Tuesdays. Following Frasier at 9 p.m. will be the new young-doctor comedy Scrubs, from Touchstone TV. Wednesdays and Fridays are expected to remain intact, and Thursday's Must See TV lineup will have only one change heading into the new season: Comedy Inside Schwartz, the tale of a wannabe sportscaster, will fill the 8:30 p.m. time slot.
NBC is expected to air the first Jennifer Lopez special during the November sweeps, and the potential sitcom won't be available until midseason at the earliest. NBC's new head of alternative series and movies, Jeff Gaspin, said it was the first move he wanted to make after joining the network from VH-1 last month.
"The first day I started, I set out to get Jennifer and do a special with her," says Gaspin, who created such hits as Behind the Music and Pop-up Video at VH1. "I called her manager, we spoke to Tommy Mottola at Sony Music, and we told them of our desires, and we put a deal together."