NBC sked gets serious

Net's changes include less laffers, no Sunday movie, 'Weakest Link'

See complete NBC Fall Schedule

NEW YORK — They’re not laughing as much as they used to at NBC.

The Peacock’s fall schedule, set to be announced today at Radio City Music Hall, includes just eight sitcoms — the fewest since 1982.

Back then, the network was mired in last place. But this time NBC heads into the upfront firmly on top (at least demographically speaking), even as the web’s bench of laffers shrinks to its lowest level in two decades.

That’s not NBC’s only historical difference this fall. The web will kick off the year without some sort of Sunday night movie for the first time since the mid-1970s. Plus, it boasts a primetime gameshow (two installments of “Weakest Link”), something that hasn’t shown up on NBC’s fall sked in decades.

Besides the dwindling sitcom tally, stability resonates throughout NBC’s fall lineup, which includes three new comedies and three new dramas. The net will move only two existing series (“Third Watch” and “Three Sisters”) and keep three nights intact (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays). Altogether, new entries make up just 4-1/2 hours of NBC’s new sked.

NBC makes its most dramatic moves on Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays. Mondays kick off with the return of gamer “Weakest Link.”

“Third Watch” then moves back an hour to 9 p.m., followed by new drama “Crossing Jordan.”

Longshot comedy “Emeril” lands the lead Tuesday slot. After “Emeril,” “Three Sisters” drops to 8:30 p.m., followed by “Frasier” and new comedy “Scrubs.”

NBC adds a second “Weakest Link” Sundays at 8 p.m. and replaces pic with new entries “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Undercover.”

Must see ‘Schwartz’?

This year’s winner of the post- “Friends” time period derby? Laffer “Inside Schwartz,” which garnered strong buzz during pilot season.

All told, NBC holds or shares a production credit on 10 out of its 22 hours (including “Dateline NBC”).

Here’s a snapshot of NBC’s new fall series:

  • “Crossing Jordan,” from NBC Studios. Jill Hennessy stars in this drama as a female coroner; Tim Kring exec produces.

  • “Emeril,” from NBC Studios. Food Network stalwart Emeril Lagasse plays himself in this comedy from Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason.

  • “Scrubs,” from Touchstone Television. Comedy from exec producer Bill Lawrence follows a group of young doctors.

  • “Inside Schwartz,” from 20th Century Fox TV and NBC Studios. Comedy from exec producer Stephen Engel stars Breckin Meyer as a sports fan who’s unlucky in love.

  • “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” from Studios USA and exec producers Dick Wolf and Rene Balcer. Vincent D’Onofrio stars in the latest “Law & Order” chapter.

  • “Undercover,” from 20th Century Fox, Regency TV and Jersey TV. Drama from exec producer Shane Salerno about an elite unit of the Justice Dept.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

NBC FALL 2001 SCHEDULE

(Asterisks represent time period changes)

MONDAY

8 p.m. Weakest Link (NBC/BBC)
9 p.m. Third Watch* (Warner Bros.)
10 p.m. Crossing Jordan (NBC Studios)

TUESDAY

8 p.m. Emeril (NBC Studios)
8:30 p.m. Three Sisters* (NBC Studios)
9 p.m. Frasier (Paramount)
9:30 p.m. Scrubs (Touchstone)
10 p.m. Dateline NBC (NBC News)

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. Ed (Viacom/Worldwide Pants/NBC Studios)
9 p.m. The West Wing (Warner Bros.)
10 p.m. Law & Order (Studios USA)

THURSDAY

8 p.m. Friends (Warner Bros.)
8:30 p.m. Inside Schwartz (20th Century Fox/NBC Studios)
9 p.m. Will & Grace (NBC Studios)
9:30 p.m. Just Shoot Me (Universal)
10 p.m. ER (Warner Bros.)

FRIDAY

8 p.m. Providence (NBC Studios)
9 p.m. Dateline NBC (NBC News)
10 p.m. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Studios USA)

SATURDAY

8 p.m. Movie

SUNDAY

7 p.m. Dateline NBC (NBC News)
8 p.m. Weakest Link* (NBC/BBC)
9 p.m. Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Studios USA)
10 p.m. Undercover (20th Century Fox/Regency)

MIDSEASON

Leap of Faith (NBC Studios)
What Are You Thinking? (Touchstone/Columbia TriStar)

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