HOLLYWOOD — While its network rivals prepare to make some drastic overhauls to their lineups next fall, NBC will bank on stability.
As expected, net unveiled a schedule Monday with just five new shows — and changes on only three of seven nights (Daily Variety, May 13). That’s in sharp contrast to what’s expected to be myriad moves at the other nets, particularly ABC, the WB and Fox.
“We have the luxury of very few scheduling holes,” NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker said. “This is the most stable of any network that announces its schedule this week. That is the key to our success.”
Peacock instead is reserving much of its energy for midseason, where it has already announced pickups for the drama “Mister Sterling,” as well as the laffers “It’s Not About Me” and the return of “Watching Ellie.” Net also gave a six-episode order to the edgy drama “Kingpin.”
The “Ellie” pickup was a bit of a surprise; as it is, net hasn’t officially determined the order’s episode count; Peacock has three of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus starrer left from this season. Net’s commitment to the show had been mixed. Zucker shortened the show’s midseason run, then reversed course earlier this spring.
Nonetheless, “we felt the show worked,” Zucker said. “It’s gotten really rough treatment by the press. But we were pleased by the performance of the show. There’s no question it can be improved, but I don’t believe there is any bigger star than Julia Louis-Dreyfus on television.”
Zucker said “Ellie’s” real-time format won’t be dramatically tweaked for next season, except for removing the ticking clock that had been superimposed at the bottom of the screen.
Also for midseason, Zucker kept alive the possibility that 20th Century Fox/NBC Studios laffer “A.U.S.A.” — which is expected to be reshot as a multicamera laffer — and NBC Studios/Pariah comedy “Life at Five Feet” might wind up with orders.
And net is still exploring ways to bring the low-budget drama “Young Arthur” to primetime. Before picking it up, NBC West Coast prexy Scott Sassa said the net hopes to see a number of scripts (as many as the initial 13) from “Arthur” to determine how to produce the show with a lower-cost model.
It’s fairly unconventional (but not unheard of) for a net to throw its support behind midseason candidates without actually picking up the shows. “The fact is, we have so few holes and such strong development, we’ve got more shows than we need,” he said.
As for NBC’s fall slate, there were few surprises — save for a last-minute decision to air frosh NBC Studios/Paramount/Grammnet Prods. laffer “In-Laws” on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and scheduling vet comedy “Just Shoot Me” at 8:30 as a lead-in to “Frasier.”
Other new comedies include the NBC Studios/Primarily Entertainment entry “Hidden Hills,” which will air Tuesday at 9:30, and Warner Bros. TV’s “Good Morning, Miami,” which gets the plum post-“Will & Grace” Thursday 9:30 slot.
On the drama side, Universal TV/NBC Studios’ “American Dreams” will run Sunday at 8 p.m., while DreamWorks/NBC Studios ensemble crime skein “Boomtown” will take over the same night at 10.
Three of last year’s fall entries have made it back for a sophomore year: “Crossing Jordan,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Scrubs.”
“Scrubs” has been pressed into duty in NBC’s most scrutinized timeslot: Thursdays at 8:30.
“In terms of it as a front-runner to replace ‘Friends,’ I’d understand it if you characterize it that way,” Zucker said. “But I wouldn’t want to add any more pressure to a show that already has a bit of pressure on it. It’s not a front- runner, as you’d say.”
Shows not returning include “Emeril,” “Imagine That,” “Inside Schwartz,” “Leap of Faith,” “UC: Undercover” and “Weakest Link.” The latter could return as a series of specials, but Zucker admitted he shouldn’t have said in January that the gamer was a lock for fall. “I was wrong.”
In other Peacock news:
- NBC has canceled standup comedy showcase “Late Friday,” the successor to the long-running “Friday Night.” In its place, Peacock will air an hourlong edition of “Last Call With Carson Daly.” Daly’s show will air repeats on Monday nights.
- Rena Sofer, who won an Emmy for her stint on “General Hospital,” has joined the cast of “Just Shoot Me,” which heads into its seventh season this fall.
- Net announced its slate of specials and events for next season, including the first primetime broadcast in recent memory of the Hollywood Christmas Parade.
Besides the “Hollywood Christmas Spectacular,” other specials include a 50th anniversary look at Abbott & Costello and a 75th anni take on the Three Stooges.
Peacock also has scheduled “Battle of the NBC Stars,” “The National Dog Show: Presented by Purina,” “The Crocodile Hunter: Graham’s Revenge,” and concerts from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)