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Tuned In: Stability the star in NBC's new lineup

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Compared with some of the other networks -- ABC, Fox -- NBC didn't have a lot in its prime-time schedule that needed fixing. But a year from now, with the end of "Friends," it might.

Starring in the NBC series "Good Morning Miami" are, from left, Burke Moses, Mark Feuerstein and Ashley Williams. (Paul Drinkwater)

The first in a week-long parade of fall schedule announcements that will dictate what we're watching and when we're watching it, NBC's fall schedule emphasizes stability.

"Our schedule looks a lot like our old schedule and we think that's a good thing," NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker said yesterday in a conference call with reporters. NBC's Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights return intact.

Though Zucker said he still hopes the coming season won't be the last for "Friends," he acknowledged NBC executives need to plan for the future. He wouldn't anoint a successor, but the move of freshman hospital comedy "Scrubs" to 8:30 p.m. Thursday is telling.

"We're doing what NBC has done on Thursday for many years. We moved 'Mad About You' to Thursday. We moved 'Seinfeld' to Thursday. We moved 'Will & Grace' to Thursday. It's the same thing here [with 'Scrubs']," Zucker said. "The 8:30 time slot comes with a lot of scrutiny and to put a new show there is not fair to the show."

NBC canceled "Leap of Faith," and "Weakest Link" is not on the fall schedule, though it will continue as a daily syndicated program. "Watching Ellie" will return at midseason without its countdown clock.

Here's NBC's fall schedule, with new series in bold:

Sunday

7 p.m.: "Dateline NBC."

8 p.m.: "American Dreams" -- Set in the early '60s, this drama centers on Philadelphia's Pryor family, including a mom (Gail O'Grady) and dad (Tom Verica) and their 15-year-old daughter Meg (Brittany Snow), who lands a spot dancing on "American Bandstand" with her more worldly best friend (Vanessa Lengies). Joseph Lawrence ("Blossom") also stars.

9 p.m.: "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

10 p.m.: "Boomtown" -- A crime drama from Graham Yost ("From the Earth to the Moon") and Jon Avnet ("Fried Green Tomatoes"), this series looks at Los Angeles through the eyes of flawed heroes in various lines of work. Donnie Wahlberg ("Band of Brothers") and Mykelti Williamson ("Forrest Gump") play detectives, Neal McDonough ("Band of Brothers") is a district attorney, Gary Basaraba ("Brooklyn South") and Jason Gedrick ("Falcone") are cops, Lana Parrilla ("Spin City") is a paramedic and Nina Garbiras ("The $treet") is a newspaper reporter.

Monday

8 p.m.: "Fear Factor."

9 p.m.: "Third Watch."

10 p.m.: "Crossing Jordan."

Tuesday

8 p.m.: "In-Laws" -- Newlyweds Matt (Elon Gold) and Alex (Bonnie Somerville) move in with her parents (played by Jean Smart and Dennis Farina) to save money while Matt's in cooking school.

8:30 p.m.: "Just Shoot Me."

9 p.m.: "Frasier."

9:30 p.m.: "Hidden Hills" -- Sounds like this show could also be called "Swingin' in Suburbia." This comedy follows the adventures of two suburban couples, Doug (Justin Louis) and Janine (Paula Marshall) and Zack (Dondre T. Whitfield) and Sarah (Tamara Taylor). NBC's press release says the show "explores the wild, sexy and funny side of the 'burbs, where apparently everyone has a lot more to reveal than what first meets the eye." Okaaaay. Guess that's a reference to the softball mom (Kristin Bauer) with an Internet following.

10 p.m.: "Dateline NBC."

Wednesday

8 p.m.: "Ed."

9 p.m.: "The West Wing."

10 p.m.: "Law & Order."

Thursday

8 p.m.: "Friends."

8:30 p.m.: "Scrubs."

9 p.m.: "Will & Grace."

9:30 p.m.: "Good Morning Miami" -- The producers of "Will & Grace" created this comedy about TV news producer Jake (Mark Feuerstein, "Conrad Bloom") who takes a job at a Miami station where he's charged with revamping the country's lowest-rated morning show and handling the pompous host (Burke Moses) and pampered co-host (Tessie Santiago). Jere Burns ("Dear John") plays the insecure station manager and Suzanne Pleshette plays Jake's grandmother. Newcomer Ashley Williams plays a hairdresser who catches Jake's eye.

10 p.m.: "ER."

Friday

8 p.m.: "Providence."

9 p.m.: "Dateline NBC."

10 p.m.: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Saturday

8 p.m.: "NBC Saturday Night Movie."

Midseason

NBC has ordered three mid-season series, and Zucker mentioned another three series -- comedies "A.U.S.A." (legal comedy) and "Life at Five Feet" (Alex Borstein as a ghostwriter) and drama "Young Arthur" (King Arthur as a teen) -- that haven't been officially ordered, but, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, they probably will be in the coming months.

Midseason series ordered are:

"It's Not About Me" -- Jason Bateman ("The Hogan Family") and Greg Grunberg ("Alias," "Felicity") play competitive roommates and lawyers. Bateman quits his job to become a teacher, only to discover he's attracted to another teacher (Nikki Cox).

"Mister Sterling" -- A former "West Wing" producer created this drama about a young U.S. senator (Josh Brolin) who was raised in the shadow of his father, a former California governor. Audra McDonald (Broadway's "Ragtime") plays his chief of staff.

"Kingpin" -- HBO's "The Sopranos" cleared the way for this gritty drama about the war between America's Drug Enforcement Agency and a family-run narcotics cartel led by Miguel Cadena (Yancy Arias) and his power hungry wife (Sheryl Lee, "Twin Peaks"). Brian Benben ("Dream On") plays a plastic surgeon and the cartel's key distributor. "Kingpin" was created by David Mills, who also oversaw the dark HBO miniseries "The Corner."


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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