No New Sitcoms? At NBC, It's No Joke

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

NEW YORK, May 14

NBC, which for some weeks this spring has barely shown a ratings pulse, took over Radio City Music Hall to pitch a resuscitation plan that includes a handful of new high-concept dramas, "bulked up" original-episode orders on three returning series and, for the first time in nearly 30 years, no new sitcoms.

For advertisers and the news media that came to hear what NBC had to say, it was like watching John Stamos apply a defibrillator to a flatliner on "ER" -- you have your doubts but hope for the best.

"Frankly, we need to be more better," NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly joked at the outset of the presentation that kicked off the network's week-long unveiling of its prime-time plans.

True to its NBCUniversal2.0 word, NBC has no scripted series at 8 in the fall except Thursday, when it's sticking with its four-sitcom format.

Three of NBC's four new drama series are high concept, sci-fi-ish and hope to be the next "Heroes." It appeared NBC had developed three new series as potential Monday companions to that show and decided to put them all on the air. They're peppered across Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

The rest of its schedule brings back critically acclaimed, low-rated series -- and all those 8 p.m. reality shows, including screaming-at-briefcases utility player "Deal or No Deal," which kicks off Monday and Wednesday nights.

Much time was spent, both during the presentation and at an earlier news conference with reporters, preaching the upscale-ness of NBC's audience.

"We got the class -- we need the mass," Reilly told critics during a pre-dog-and-pony-show Q&A session.

Having noticed viewers will no longer tolerate repeats for any length of time, NBC asked three series to "take the bulk-up challenge," Reilly told advertisers.

Thursday comedies "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" will produce 25 and 30 new episodes, respectively, though some of "The Office's" episodes will be bundled as one-hour broadcasts.

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