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NBC adds some prime-time drama

Wed., May 6, 2009

New comedies also join No. 4 network’s lineup as Leno moves to 10 p.m. slot

Jay Leno’s bid for prime-time triumph next season will be backed by nurses, paramedics and filmmaker Ron Howard.

NBC is adding four new dramas to its 2009-’10 schedule, including a pair of medical shows and the Howard-produced “Parenthood,” based on the 1989 movie he directed.

Two new comedies, “Community” with Chevy Chase and “100 Questions,” were announced Monday, and the network is ordering prime-time episodes of the “Saturday Night Live” fake newscast “Weekend Update.”

Series being renewed include “Heroes” and newcomers “Parks & Recreation,” with Amy Poehler, and the police drama “Southland.”

NBC is building its next schedule on a bold gambit, giving its daily 10 p.m. slot to “The Jay Leno Show” after he steps aside as “Tonight” show host. Conan O’Brien takes over the late-night talk show June 1.

The fourth-place network, which has struggled to launch new shows, is “doubling down on its scripted commitment,” said Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.

“We’re going to have more strength from 8 to 10 p.m. than we’ve ever had to assure that Jay has big lead-ins,” Silverman said.

NBC had previously announced the return of “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “The Celebrity Apprentice,” “Biggest Loser” and “Friday Night Lights.”

New reality shows “The Marriage Ref,” produced by Jerry Seinfeld; “Breakthrough With Tony Robbins”; and “Who Do You Think You Are?” also had been announced.

The fate of other series won’t be known until the network unveils its full schedule May 19. That includes “Medium,” “Chuck,” “My Name Is Earl” and the original “Law & Order.”

NBC’s announcement jumped the gun on the traditional “upfront week” in which networks present their lineups to the advertisers who make preseason ad buys.

Seth Meyers anchors “Weekend Update,” which is expected to kick off NBC’s Thursday nights. The network already has two comedies on Thursday starring former “Weekend Update” anchors – Poehler, and Tina Fey of “30 Rock” – and it’s likely they’ll be making return visits.

That announcement doesn’t seem to bode well for “My Name Is Earl,” a comedy considered on the bubble, but Silverman said no decision has been made about the show.

The new shows announced Monday:

•“Parenthood,” starring Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”), Maura Tierney (“ER”), Craig T. Nelson (“Coach”) and Bonnie Bedelia as family members dealing with the pressures of life.

•“Trauma,” about the heroics of San Francisco paramedics and deemed by Silverman the “adrenaline-rush” successor to NBC’s recently departed “ER.” The cast includes Derek Luke (“Notorious”), Aimee Garcia (“George Lopez”) and Jamey Sheridan (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”).

•“Mercy,” a hospital drama that puts nurses at center stage. The ensemble cast includes Taylor Schilling (“Dark Matter”), Jamie Lee Kirchner (“Rescue Me”), James Tupper (“Men in Trees”) and Guillermo Diaz (“Weeds”).

•“Day One,” a saga about neighbors who must rebuild their lives and society after a mysterious catastrophe decimates the world’s infrastructure. Adam Campbell (“Date Movie”), Catherine Dent (“The Shield”) and Julie Gonzalo (“Eli Stone”) star. The drama is planned as a “big event” to follow the Winter Olympics, Silverman said.

•“100 Questions,” a comedy about a young woman (Sophie Winkleman, “Peep Show”), looking for love with the help of an online dating site and counselor (Amir Talai, “The Ex List”).

•“Community,” a sitcom about community college misfits that brings Chevy Chase of “Saturday Night Live” fame back to TV. The cast includes Joel McHale (“The Soup”), Gillian Jacobs (“The Book of Daniel”) and Yvette Nicole Brown (“Rules of Engagement”).


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