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NBC to cut the laughs

Web announcing dramatic change

NEW YORK — The Peacock is no longer acting proud.

When NBC’s West Coast prexy Scott Sassa and entertainment prexy Garth Ancier unveil their first fall lineup today in New York, they’ll emphasize the stability of a conservative schedule that features no major structural changes or surprises.

Despite the lineup’s predictability, the sked still marks one dramatic departure from NBC lineups of the past few years: a shift from comedy to drama. Of the new shows ordered for fall, five are dramas and just two are comedies.

Two years ago, NBC aired an unprecedented 18-comedy sked, and Peacock execs had visions of sitcoms running every night of the week from 8 to 10 p.m. This year, NBC has scaled back to 10 comedies after abandoning its Monday 9-10 p.m. sitcom lineup and its Wednesday comedy block.

Playing it safe

NBC’s safest schedule in years comes after a bruising, “Seinfeld”-less season in which the web will likely cling to its victory in the key adults 18-49 demo, but may fall behind CBS in the more ceremonial race for the household crown.

It also comes out of a tough development year that included a boycott by nearly all the major studios because of the network’s hard-line stance on series ownership and long-term licensing agreements.

As it turned out, NBC Studios is producing just one new show, a Mike O’Malley sitcom, and is co-producing one new drama, Granada’s “Cold Feet.” The Peacock also was able to extract a six-year licensing contract from 20th Century Fox TV on Steve Levitan’s new comedy, “Stark Raving Mad,” in exchange for the Thursday 9:30 p.m. timeslot.

Most of NBC’s new shows from major studios, including John Wells’ White House drama from Warner Bros. TV, “West Wing,” and the Levitan comedy, were in the development pipeline prior to the start of this season.

New York trilogy

When Sassa first took his West Coast job at NBC, he vowed to air more family shows, to be less sex-obsessed and to order more shows set outside of New York City.

Three NBC shows are still set in New York, though: “Stark Raving Mad,” John Wells’ other drama, “Third Watch,” and Dick Wolf’s Studios USA drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which will star Dann Florek (“Law & Order”), Chris Meloni (“Oz”) and Mariska Hargitay (“ER”).

The other new shows are: DreamWorks’ high school drama “Freaks and Geeks,” the 30-something relationship drama “Cold Feet,” and the untitled Mike O’Malley comedy about a guy who decides it’s time to grow up.

Series that won’t be back include “NewsRadio,” “Homicide” and “Caroline in the City.”

NBC also has ordered four new series for midseason: the NBC Studios comedy “M.Y.O.B,” the DreamWorks drama “The Others” and two animated comedies (NBC Studios’ “Sammy” and Carsey-Werner’s “Bob, the Devil and God”).

The schedule is expected to be:

  • Monday: “Suddenly Susan” at 8 p.m., “Veronica’s Closet” at 8:30 p.m., “Law & Order: S.V.U” faces Fox’s “Ally McBeal” at 9 p.m., and “Dateline” returns at 10 p.m.

  • Tuesday: “3rd Rock From the Sun” at 8 p.m., the Mike O’Malley comedy at 8:30 p.m., “Just Shoot Me” at 9 p.m., “Will & Grace” at 9 :30 p.m. and “Dateline” at 10 p.m.

  • Wednesday: “Dateline” at 8 p.m., “The West Wing” at 9 p.m. and “Law & Order” at 10 p.m.

  • Thursday: “Friends” at 8 p.m., followed by “Jesse,” “Frasier,” “Stark Raving Mad” and “ER.”

  • Friday: “Providence” at 8 p.m., “Dateline” at 9 p.m., and “Cold Feet” replaces “Homicide” at 10 p.m.

  • Saturday: “Freaks and Geeks” at 8 p.m., “The Pretender” at 9 p.m. and “Profiler” at 10 p.m.

  • Sunday “Dateline” moves to 7 p.m., where it will face “60 Minutes.” “Third Watch” is at 8 p.m. against CBS’ “Touched by an Angel,” and a movie runs from 9-11 p.m.