NBC gets onboard for laffer

Peacock anxious to return to family comedy

NBC has made its first comedy series commitment for the 2000-01 season, ordering 13 episodes of a new half-hour laffer to be created by “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “That ’70s Show” exec producers Bonnie and Terry Turner.

Details of the Carsey-Werner produced show are still being developed, but the skein will likely be a family-oriented comedy with a strong male father figure at its core. In addition to the Turners, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach will serve as exec producers on the still-untitled project.

NBC’s decision to commit to 13 segs without seeing a pilot indicates just how anxious the Peacock is to get back into the family comedy biz. Indeed, NBC West Coast topper Scott Sassa and entertainment prexy Garth Ancier have both publicly stated that developing a major family comedy is a top goal at the Peacock.

By contrast, NBC’s almost single-minded focus on sophisticated, urban-set laffers over the past few years has resulted in far more misses than hits. It’s also made it difficult for NBC to launch new family comedies, as evidenced by the quick cancellations of “The Tony Danza Show” and “Built to Last” a few seasons back.

The last successful family-oriented comedy launched on NBC was the Turners’ “3rd Rock From the Sun,” which was an instant smash when it bowed in January 1996.

In addition to “3rd Rock,” the Turners co-created and serve as exec producers of “That ’70s Show,” which has emerged as a soild hit this season on Fox. The duo, both former “Saturday Night Live” scribes, wrote “Wayne’s World” and its sequel.

Carsey-Werner has produced some of the most successful family-oriented comedies of the past 15 years, including “The Cosby Show,” “Roseanne” and “Grace Under Fire.”

While NBC is looking to find a hit family comedy, the net still seems interested in adult-skewing fare as well. It recently gave a six-seg commitment to a midseason laffer starring former “Seinfeld” sidekick Michael Richards.