NBC

Network wants viewers to go with critics picks

NBC’s got its buzz back. Now it just needs the viewers to follow.

Last season was a bit frustrating for the Peacock, to say the least. Despite having the year’s biggest breakout hit (“Heroes”) and two of the most critically hailed frosh skeins in years (“30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights”), it still finished a weak fourth.

So Peacock supremo Jeff Zucker did what top execs always do in such situations: He brought in a new guy — in this case producer Ben Silverman. Kevin Reilly, the architect of NBC’s critic-friendly sked, exited.

Reilly left Silverman with strong new hands to play in primetime. “Bionic Woman” and “Chuck” are flashy, fun hours that should be able to capture some of the aud that made “Heroes” a hit. And “Journeyman,” while not particularly groundbreaking, could offer an escapist thrill or two for viewers, while also luring female viewers with its time-traveling love story.

Silverman, however, isn’t taking a passive approach to the fall. Knowing full well that reality shows are the best way to lure new viewers quickly, he’s already rushed several high-profile unscripted projects into production (including a new take on “American Gladiators”).

Don’t be surprised if Silverman has a few other tricks up his sleeve, such as stunt scheduling or one-off specials that get people talking.

“Get ready — I want to do it fast and furious,” Silverman says, adding that he’s well aware of just how much work is to be done at NBC.

“It’s hard to move this massive ship. We’re an inch from an iceberg, not 100 yards from shore.”

SPOTLIGHT: CHUCK

How do you get the computer-savvy Comic-Con crowd that’s abandoned TV for Second Life and Wii back in front of the screen? One solution: Make a show about ’em.

That would be “Chuck,” which revolves around a twentysomething mega-electronics store employee who becomes an accidental government agent. Thankfully, exec producers Josh Schwartz (“The OC”) and Chris Fedak aren’t the sort who serve up demo-targeted “product,” making “Chuck” one of the season’s sweetest surprises.

“I was drawn to the idea of marrying the kind of relationship-driven dramedy that I like to do with more genre-based elements,” Schwartz says. “After four seasons of ‘The OC,’ the idea of taking the type of character I love — the unlikely romantic hero — and putting him in life-and-death situations felt fun.”

NEW FOR 2007-08

Bionic Woman

Just about every media story on this show mentions the fact that exec producer David Eick helped reinvent “Battlestar Galactica,” and now he’s doing the same with another 1970s Gen X fave. That’s true, but while “BSG” is a dark, moody, critical gem, “Bionic Woman” is aiming to be a broad-appeal actioner (admittedly featuring its own dark moodiness) with a hot female lead (Michelle Ryan) that appeals to both geeks and the general population. So far, so good.

Journeyman

It’s a time travel sci-fi adventure! It’s a love story! However you classify “Journeyman” — about a man who finds himself jumping through time in order to help out people in trouble — the show has a tough task ahead of it. NBC’s chosen it to follow “Heroes” on Monday night, an initial blessing that could turn into a curse if the picky “Heroes” crowd isn’t quickly impressed.

Life

Aiming to be the “House” of copshows, “Life” stars Damian Lewis as a cop-turned-con-turned-cop-again. NBC has focused very little promotional energy on this show, which could nonetheless find an audience opposite CBS’ steady but not huge “CSI: NY” and ABC’s serialized “Dirty Sexy Money.” It just needs to get people’s attention.

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