NBC will throw lots of money ($750,000 per episode, plus 1% of syndication revenues for each of the six stars) at the Friends cast to keep Thursday nights strong, if not as dominant as before, for a least two more years.
Then it's on to rebuilding Thursday's huge dominance by moving Will & Grace and Just Shoot Me to the pivotal 9-10 p.m. slot and moving its venerable Frasier to Tuesday nights. It's also depending on a new sitcom (with former Wings star Steven Weber) at 8:30 p.m on Thursdays.
NBC Entertainment president Garth Ancier said last week the network was fulfilling its promise to offer family comedies with the addition of Daddio and Tucker to the schedule.
While Millionaire continues to be a royal pain for everybody but ABC, Ancier pointed out that the show's audience has grown old quickly, from a median age of 42 last year to nearly 51 this year. And despite some slippage in NBC's ratings this year, West Coast entertainment head Scott Sassa said that the network was top-rated in the 10 p.m. hour leading into late local news.
What they're saying
The good news is NBC's development last year was really solid, with shows such as The West Wing, Third Watch, Providence and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Now reviews are mixed.
Steve Sternberg, TN Media's top programming research executive, seemed to sum up the general feeling about NBC's new offerings: "I wasn't that crazy about their new programs."
Nevertheless, Sternberg said the network's overall schedule should keep it competitive next season. A number of other agency executives and NBC affiliates last week expressed similar feelings.
Suddenly Susan, Stark Raving Mad, Veronica's Closet, Jesse, Profiler, The Others, The Pretender.
Season to date
Total households: 8.6 rating/14 share (-3% from last year), tied for second.
Adults 18-49: 5.0/14 (-7%).
Seven new series: four comedies and three dramas
COMEDIES: The Michael Richards Show. It's the return of Kramer, as a bumbling detective (the network wants you to think Inspector Clouseau). NBC has high hopes for the show, although the pilot is being re-shot, with the addition of new characters.
DAG. A White House comedy about a secret service agent (David Allan Grier) who is demoted (after being the only agent to zig right when he ought to have zagged left to shield the president from a sniper). Now he protects the First Lady (Delta Burke).
Tucker. Boy (Eli Marienthal) and newly divorced mom (Noelle Beck) are forced to move in with her (rhymes-with-witchy) sister (Katey Sagall).
The Steven Weber Show. The former Wings star plays a fast-track executive who has a hex put on him by a bad blind date.
DRAMAS: Deadline. Crusading journalist starring Oliver Platt. The latest from Dick Wolf.
Titans. Prime time suds, airing at relatively early 8 o'clock hour. It's glamorous, pretty, sexy, breathless: in other words, what Spelling does so well.
Ed. Quirky yarn about a big city lawyer (Tom Cavanaugh) who loses his job and his wife and goes back to Ohio.