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Status quo for Peacock

'Kingpin' on bench as 'Ellie,' 'Faith' await dates

NBC isn’t taking any chances this fall, ordering up a fall sked filled with just a handful of new shows — and saving its most buzzed-about drama for midseason.

With a firm grasp on first place, the Peacock is today expected to roll out a fall 2002 lineup featuring just 3½ hours of new fare: three comedies and two dramas. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights will remain the same; the only major move of existing shows are expected to come with the shift of “Just Shoot Me” to Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and “Scrubs” to Thursday night.

Two high-profile midseason comedies — “Watching Ellie” and “Leap of Faith” — were not on any NBC skeds circulating over the weekend. “Weakest Link” also appears dead as a weekly primetime series, along with long-dead losers “Emeril,” “Inside Schwartz,” “UC: Undercover” and “Imagine That.”

For midseason, NBC has picked up 13 episodes of Universal TV’s Washington-based “Mister Sterling,” starring Josh Brolin. And “Kingpin,” the audacious new drama from scribe David Mills (“Homicide,” “The Corner”) and Spelling Television, has snagged a six-episode midseason order, along with a commitment for six more scripts.

“Kingpin” has been the subject of positive buzz since it was in the script stage, but NBC execs are holding it back nonetheless.

Peacock programming chief Jeff Zucker said the decision shouldn’t be seen as a lack of confidence in the series.

“We love ‘Kingpin,’ ” he told Daily Variety late Sunday. “We want to launch it out of the glare of the fall premieres. And if it goes on Sunday, we want to keep it away from ESPN Sunday football and let (HBO’s) ‘The Sopranos’ have its run. Then we can bring on another drama of the same caliber (in January).”

The Peacock’s sales department, however, also likely played a role in the move. The fourth quarter is the most important for networks, and NBC execs likely didn’t want to take any chances with a skein that could prove to be controversial.

“Kingpin” doesn’t contain nudity or profanity, but its pilot does feature a drug lord as an almost heroic figure, while also boasting at least three grisly killings and some drug use.

NBC insiders confirmed what skeins were getting ordered, but the entire net — including Zucker — remained tight-lipped about where precisely all the pieces will fit. Zucker said he simply wants to maintain some element of suspense for today’s upfront presentation.

New shows on tap

These are the five shows ordered for fall:

  • “In Laws” (Paramount in association with NBC Studios Grammnet Prods.): Dennis Farina and Jean Smart star in this half-hour that’s essentially “Meet the Parents” with a different cast. Mark Reisman and Kelsey Grammer are the exec producers.

  • “Hidden Hills” (NBC Studios in association with Primarily Entertainment): Suburban zaniness rules in this half-hour family comedy.

  • “Good Morning Miami” (Warner Bros. TV): The creators of “Will & Grace” are behind this half-hour romantic comedy about a morning-show producer who takes a job on a really bad ayemer because he’s hot for the show’s hair stylist.

  • “Boomtown” (NBC Studios/DreamWorks): Graham Yost-penned cop skein stars Jason Gedrick.

  • “American Dreams” (Universal Television in association with Dick Clark Prods.): Family-themed drama from scribe Jonathan Prince that’s set in the 1960s and features footage from “American Bandstand.”

Potential sked

As for sked specifics, with four nights remaining untouched, speculation Sunday centered on three nights:

  • Sunday will likely kick off with “Dateline” and “American Dreams” from 7-9 p.m.; it’s possible “Dateline” could shift to 8 p.m. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” should follow at 9 p.m., with “Boomtown” at 10 p.m. If NBC’s feeling generous toward Dick Wolf, it could shift “CI” to 10 p.m..

  • Tuesday should start with “Just Shoot Me” at 8, followed by “In Laws,” “Frasier,” “Hidden Hills” and “Dateline.”

  • On Thursday “Friends,” “Will & Grace” and “ER” remain anchored at 8, 9 and 10 p.m., respectively. “Scrubs” and “Good Morning Miami” are expected to fill the 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. satellite slots. NBC could also leave “Scrubs” on Tuesdays — considering an 8:30 p.m. test run earlier this season didn’t produce incredible ratings. In that case, either “Hidden Hills” or “In Laws” could land on Thursday.