Big six overview: NBC

New sitcoms positioned to pad Peacock's plumage

Jeff Zucker wants to make you laugh.

After several seasons of churning out subpar sitcoms, the NBC Entertainment prexy says the Peacock needs to get back its comedy groove. Nothing else is as important.

“I’d like to come out of this season with at least one new comedy that’s working,” he says. “We need a couple, but I’d like to start with one.”

Zucker has three contenders launching this fall as well as a couple planned for midseason. Of the trio set to launch this month — “Scrubs,” “Emeril” and “Inside Schwartz” — he’s clear which is his fave.

“You have to love all your babies equally, but ‘Scrubs’ is the best new comedy out there on any network,” Zucker says.

Skein, which revolves around first-year doctors, has landed what may be the Peacock’s most plum slot: Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m., right after “Frasier.” In addition to having a great lead-in, there’s less pressure to perform — unlike NBC’s vaunted Must See TV Thursday laff lineup.

Analysts believe that “Scrubs” may offer just the right prescription.

“It’ll do better than ‘Three Sisters’ did in the time period (last season), and that’s good for NBC,” says Steve Sternberg, senior VP and director of audience analysis for Gotham-based ad firm Magna Global USA.

Premiere drubbings

The Peacock’s other comedy contenders have a more difficult challenge.

Critics have already declared “Emeril,” starring Food Network superstar Emeril Lagasse, dead on arrival. Opposite strong comedy competish from Fox’s “That ’70s Show” and ABC’s “Dharma & Greg,” that assessment is probably right.

“Inside Schwartz,” meanwhile, has the blessing/curse of airing Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. Viewers have come to expect little from NBC shows skedded here, and early buzz isn’t strong. Worse, ratings for CBS “Survivor” tend to soar in that show’s second half-hour — making it all the more difficult for “Schwartz” to succeed.

More important than whether “Schwartz” works is how well the net’s Thursday lineup does as a whole.

After years of dominating the night, Peacock started to show some chinks in its Thursday armor last season thanks to competish from CBS’ “Survivor” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” Now, Fox is attacking, too, putting “Temptation Island 2” at 9 p.m.

A bigger gamble for NBC is the net’s Sunday lineup, which replaces a weekly movie showcase with two new dramas: “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “UC: Undercover.”

Long-term view

Both skeins will face off against solid drama competish, which may be one reason Zucker says he’s going to have to be patient. “We haven’t had regular series programming there for more than 20 years. It’s going to be a tough road to sled.”

Still, considering how poorly NBC’s movies did last season, the net can improve even if it ends up third for the night. Also in the plus col-umn, new drama “Crossing Jordan,” Mondays at 10, has the feel of a sleeper hit.

Zucker also has a weapon his predecessors didn’t: reality.

New segs of summer smash “Fear Factor” will be ready for air in January, while “Weakest Link” — which airs twice a week — has proved to be a flexible hole-filler.

Add in two weeks of the Winter Olympics, and NBC has a good shot of holding onto the crown among adults 18-49.

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