NBC hopes quantity yields quality

Abundance of new series key to network's comeback hopes

Serial skepticism
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NBC heads into the fall season looking to further distance itself from last year’s Jay Leno primetime debacle. With five new comedies and seven new dramas, the network has such a surplus of scheduling options that it temporarily parked fan favorite “Parks and Recreation” out of Thursday night to make room for the new sitcom “Outsourced.”

“We may have too deep a bench,” says NBC primetime entertainment prexy Angela Bromstad, noting the network’s strong development slate.

New series set for midseason debuts include comedies “Friends With Benefits,” “Perfect Couples” and “The Paul Reiser Show,” which Bromstad says may prompt the network to try to establish another sitcom block outside Thursday.

The process of figuring out where to put these midseason replacements, which also include a new drama from David E. Kelley (“Harry’s Law”), usually sorts itself out once the smoke clears from the early season ratings. But the surfeit is a far cry from earlier in 2010, when the network scrambled to fill five hours of primetime programming after canceling Leno’s primetime show.

NBC has positioned two of its splashiest freshman series — “The Event” and “Chase” — on Monday following “Chuck.” The Tuesday lineup remains intact, while Thursdays will bring “The Apprentice” at 10 p.m. after “Outsourced.”

Wednesdays feature two new series — “Undercovers” from J.J. Abrams and “Law and Order: Los Angeles,” the two bracketing the returning “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“That’s a franchise we believe in, and we were not ready to let it go,” Bromstad says of the new West Coast incarnation of “Law and Order.” “There’s a great track record with both those new shows on Wednesday.”

Going with proven talent — be it Kelley, Reiser, Abrams or Jerry Bruckheimer (executive producer on “Chase”) — has Bromstad feeling good about the network’s debut-heavy slate.

“I’ve been in situations where you have big red flags this time of year, and we feel pretty calm,” Bromstad says.

“We felt there was an opportunity to cater to the audience of those shows,” Bromstad says. “If you can grab that audience and keep it, the payoff can be huge.”

Grabbing it is one thing. Holding onto it, as ABC learned last year with the serialized sci-fi drama “FlashForward,” is another. After a big debut, “Flash” lost two-thirds of its audience and was cancelled.

“The Event” also faces heavy competition in its timeslot Mondays at 9 p.m., squaring off against the second hour of CBS’ comedy block as well as ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and Fox’s high-profile freshman drama “Lone Star.”

“It’s probably the most competitive spot we could have chosen,” Bromstad says. “But we wanted to be aggressive. We think the audience is there.”


“The Event”
With NBC axing “Heroes” and rivals “Lost” and “24” ending their long runs, Bromstad senses an opening for a serialized show. Enter optimistically titled series “The Event,” a complex conspiracy thriller hinging on an Everyman discovering what the press materials call the “biggest cover-up in U.S. history.”


This police procedural, airing Mondays after “The Event,” follows a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive apprehension team. Bromstad is high on female lead Kelli Giddish and notes “Chase” will be more adrenaline-fueled than most procedurals. “If the U.S. marshals are after you, you probably did something really bad,” Bromstad says.

“Law & Order: Los Angeles”
After nearly 1,000 hours of programming, the “Law and Order” franchise sets up shop in Southern California. With the original “L&O” off the air after 20 seasons, Bromstad believes the dramatic change in locale will reinvent the series. Skeet Ulrich, Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard star.

The plan is for this Jimmy Smits courtroom drama to follow “School Pride” and “Dateline” on the Friday night schedule, with the network hoping to establish a spot for a scripted program. If it’s not a good fit, Bromstad hints the show could move.

A fish-out-of-water sitcom about a Midwesterner coping with his new life managing a call center in India, “Outsourced” eschews broadstroke stereotypes, aiming for the character-based comedy found in NBC’s Thursday night neighborhood. If it scores with viewers, it could settle in permanently at 9:30 p.m.

“School Pride”
“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” hits the campus in this feel-good reality show airing Fridays at 8 p.m. beginning in mid-October. The idea: Give students, teachers and parents the means to renovate their dilapidated schools. The results could inspire but will probably fall short of making kids actually feel good about having to go to school.

The husband and wife in J.J. Abrams’ new spy series discover a return to the CIA does wonders for wedlock. Abrams directed the pilot, and the hope is he can deliver the same mix of glamour and adventure that made “Alias” a hit. Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star in the series, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m.