A new team at NBC is bent on reversing the network's fortunes with a new crop of shows that have potentially broader appeal.
The fall game plan includes The Playboy Club, a '60s-era soap about the famed Chicago hideaway and its ties to mobsters and celebrities; Prime Suspect, a remake of the British detective series starring Maria Bello (ER) in the role first played by Helen Mirren; and Grimm, a cop drama that is set in a world inhabited by fairy-tale characters.
Programming chief Robert Greenblatt, the Showtime executive brought in by NBC's new owner, Comcast, says he sought "bold and original and attention-getting" shows to combat viewers' defection to cable. A big focus is comedy, where NBC has struggled by airing critically acclaimed shows with too few viewers.
"We need to grow more comedies on our schedule and not just on Thursday, and we need to make the comedies broader," Greenblatt says.
So two new sitcoms will lead off Wednesdays: Up All Night, starring Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?) as a frazzled working mom (Will Arnett plays her stay-at-home husband); and Free Agents, about smitten co-workers on the rebound, starring Hank Azaria. Thursday's Whitney, a relationship comedy starring Whitney Cummings, gets the plum post-Office slot.
Spring reality hit The Voice, ending its first season next month, will be rested until January, when it's expected to provide a compatible Monday lead-in for Smash, a new drama about the makings of a Broadway show. (Another competition, The Sing-Off, will fill the slot this fall.) And 30 Rock will sit out because of star Tina Fey's pregnancy and return early next year.
Low-rated Chuck will finish its run with 13 episodes on Fridays, thanks to a reduced price tag and what Greenblatt calls a "hugely loyal fan base" that deserves a series wrap-up.
Also in the pipeline for midseason are The Firm, based on John Grisham's novel; Awake, about a detective living parallel lives; The Celebrity Apprentice, with or without Donald Trump, who's considering a presidential run; and three more comedies, including one based on the life of comedian Chelsea Handler.
Cancellations include the retooled Law & Order: Los Angeles, The Event and Outsourced. And though David E. Kelley's midseason legal drama Harry's Law made the cut, his Wonder Woman remake pilot came up short.
By Gary Levin