'Apprentice' set to fill timeslot

Love is never easy.

Love Bites,” the hourlong romantic comedy anthology has been pulled from NBC’s 10 p.m. Thursday slot for the fall because creator/exec producer Cindy Chupack has asked to be relieved of her showrunner duties, and the character played by Becki Newton has to be reimagined. In the pilot, Newton’s character is a virgin but in real life she is pregnant.

To fill the timeslot, NBC is scheduling Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” Reality series will run 15 hours over 13 weeks, with “Love Bites” tentatively coming back in January, if not before. Trump’s original “The Apprentice” hasn’t run since spring 2007.

Production on “Love Bites,” which has not yet begun, will be pushed back several weeks to accommodate Chupack’s new duties as a writer. It will also give the network and exec producers the time to determine what to do with Newton’s character and how to handle the Jordana Spiro situation. The actress has left the show because she is contractually obligated to TBS’ half-hour comedy “My Boys.”

Citing “a few circumstances out of our control,” NBC’s exec VP of current programming Vernon Sanders said the Peacock “learned from the ‘Parenthood’ experience to take time to get things right” and didn’t want to rush “Love Bites” on to the fall sked while the production dilemmas were still in flux.

NBC said Chupack stepping down as showrunner was the former “Sex and the City” exec producer’s personal decision. “There was something going on with her privately, but it is not an illness, and definitely has to do with some personal stress she’s dealing with.”

In her statement to the press, Chupack stated, “‘Love Bites’ is incredibly important to me, and it’s been gratifying that NBC feels the same. Launching an anthology series, which breaks the form in so many ways, is a huge undertaking, and I strongly feel that I can be most helpful not showrunning, but writing. … It’s just become clear that for several reasons, some of them personal, this change (and a little more time) is what we need to launch this show properly.”

No new showrunner has been announced, but exec producers Marc Buckland and Shelley McCrory worked closely with Chupack on the pilot and may be asked to carry the load. Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan are also exec producers.

NBC will keep the 13-episode order for “Love Bites,” and said the plan for now is to launch the show in January in the 10 p.m. Thursday timeslot. There is also the possibility the show could launch in November or soon after if another show in the Peacock lineup isn’t performing and needs to be replaced.

The change will not affect the debut of the new season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” which is still skedded for March.

As for Spiro, while she was originally intended to be a series regular, she will not be able to remain on the show as she is committed to “My Boys.” She could possibly return in several episodes in a guest star role.

Sanders said there are no current plans to replace Spiro with a different character, or to recast the role with a new actress.

As with “Parenthood,” which got moved to midseason after Maura Tierney was diagnosed with cancer, NBC might ultimately benefit from the “Love Bites” move. Switching it off the fall sked gives the net a better opportunity to market the show on its own, and not include it among the handful of shows the Peacock will try to launch amid a very crowded landscape.

“Love Bites,” from Universal Media Studios and Working Title Television, stars Newton, Greg Grunberg and Constance Zimmer.

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