NBC revamps lineup with familiar faces


Coming off another disappointing season, NBC has torn up its prime-time lineup, creating a fall schedule that will see changes every night. Three new dramas, two new sitcoms and an hourlong show with a comedic bent were announced to advertisers yesterday, the first day of the networks' annual "upfront" week.

Four other newcomers were announced yesterday for midseason, when NBC will have to fill the void left by the end of Sunday Night Football.

The new fall class is densely populated by familiar names, including Matthew Perry (Friends), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), John Lithgow (3rd Rock From the Sun), Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live) and Alec Baldwin.

To make room, NBC made it official that Joey has been canceled, along with first-year series Surface, E-Ring and Conviction, the second drama from Law & Order's Dick Wolf to go down in successive seasons.

Veteran shows Scrubs, Crossing Jordan and The Apprentice also are missing from the fall lineup, but they will return at midseason, according to NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly.

ER also will have a new, rerun-free agenda. It will open with 13 episodes, then take a three-month break while The Black Donnellys, a drama about Irish mobsters from Oscar winners Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (Crash), takes over the time period. ER then will return for the season's final nine episodes.

The most highly promoted of NBC's fall class is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, from The West Wing's Aaron Sorkin. Set behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-type show, the comedic hour features Perry, Whitford, Amanda Peet, D.L. Hughley, Timothy Busfield, Steven Weber and Sarah Paulson.

The influence of football will extend beyond turning over all of Sunday night to the NFL. Leading off Tuesdays is an adaptation of the book and movie Friday Night Lights, about the obsession for high school football in a rural Texas town. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, who began this season as Jack Bauer's latest lover on 24, are the big names in a large cast.

NBC's other new dramas are Kidnapped, a thriller with a Prison Break-like structure, and Heroes, a fantasy about regular people who discover they have superhuman abilities.

Kidnapped will follow a single story, the abduction and attempted recovery of a teen from a wealthy family, over the entire season. Jeremy Sisto, Delroy Lindo, Dana Delany, Mykelti Williamson and Timothy Hutton head the ensemble. Heroes features Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia.

Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor star in the comedy 20 Good Years, about mismatched pals who vow to make the most of their remaining time. SNL's Fey is the creator and star of 30 Rock, another show business-steeped comedy set at a TV variety show. Baldwin and SNL alum Tracy Morgan head the supporting cast.

Three returning shows will have new time slots. My Name Is Earl, the only scripted freshman from last fall invited back, and The Office advance an hour to open Thursday, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent moves to Friday nights at 10.

Tom Jicha writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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