Richards will return to NBC

Castle Rock producing detective series

In a major development coup for NBC, former “Seinfeld” sidekick Michael Richards will reunite with a trio of former “Seinfeld” staffers to create a new sitcom targeted for the Peacock’s midseason sked.

NBC has given a firm six-episode commitment to the laffer, a single-camera comedy produced by Castle Rock, the production house that launched “Seinfeld.”

Show will not be a spinoff of NBC’s legendary Thursday powerhouse, nor will Richards reprise his role of Cosmo Kramer. Instead, Richards will play a Peter Sellers-esque detective.

Former “Seinfeld” writers/producers Spike Feresten, Greg Kavet and Andy Robin will serve as exec producers of the new skein. Richards is also expected to take a producer’s credit.

NBC hopes to have the Richards project on the air by March or April. Sources close to the production, however, say the show won’t be rushed on the air if it’s not ready and thus may be saved for the 2000-01 season.

It’s unclear if NBC’s agreement calls for any timeslot guarantees, but a Tuesday or Thursday 9:30 p.m. berth would be logical, particularly considering the weak start of NBC’s new Tuesday sitcom “The Mike O’Malley Show.”

Richards is the first of the four main “Seinfeld” stars to return to series television since the skein ankled the NBC lineup in May 1998. Repeats of the show continue to thrive in syndication.