By David Bauder | Associated Press
NBC is turning to some proven players for next year’s schedule, resurrecting its “Heroes” franchise and bringing back Craig T. Nelson as “Coach.”
The network is also trying the interesting experiment of airing the sitcom “Undateable” live each week. It’s NBC’s only returning comedy. Favorites “The Voice” and “The Blacklist” will be back in the same time slots.
As previously reported, veteran producer Dick Wolf is adding to his Windy City franchise with a medical drama based in Chicago. While another pilot for NBC, “Love Is a Four Letter Word,” was shot in Chicago earlier this year, that show was unmentioned in NBC’s announcement, and Deadline.com reports the network decided to pass on it.
NBC on Sunday became the first of the major broadcast networks to release its schedule for next season. NBC and Fox present their schedule to advertisers on Monday.
Fourteen new series, including six comedies, seven dramas and one variety show. Given the year-round nature of TV schedules now, only six will begin with the traditional September start to a new season.
The comedies “Marry Me,” ”About a Boy,” ”One Big Happy,” ”A to Z” and “Bad Judge” are all cancelled. So are “State of Affairs,” ”Constantine” and “Allegiance.”
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE
The cast and producers of “Undateable” aired a live episode earlier this month, and next season will attempt the high-wire act of doing it each Friday. Networks love live shows, since they are generally DVR-proof. NBC will also present a live production of “The Wiz” next fall and airs “Saturday Night Live” and prime-time pro football games. For a sitcom like “Undateable,” the appeal will be in seeing if a cast can pull it off without flubs.
“Live programming is one more way to make a show undeniable,” said Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman.
Television offers no guarantees, but familiar actors and ideas are the closest thing. That’s why Nelson, whose series “Parenthood” ended this past season, returns to the role he played for nine seasons on “Coach.” In the new version, Hayden Fox is retired but gets back into the action to help his son.
“Heroes” was one of NBC’s few successes during the 2000s, so it is coming back as “Heroes Reborn,” with a similar supernatural premise and new cast, although some original “Heroes” players will occasionally appear. The original show’s creator, Tim Kring, is back.
Few producers have been more dependable for NBC than Wolf, maker of the “Law & Order” franchise. His “Chicago Med” series, a relative to “Chicago P.D.,” was given the go-ahead although, like “Coach,” it will appear sometime in the midseason.
NBC’s record developing comedies in recent years has been abysmal, with the network of “Friends,” ”Seinfeld,” ”Cheers” and “The Office” straining for laughs. Only two comedies made it onto the fall schedule, both on Friday nights, general considered a network graveyard. “Undateable” will be seen on a night when most of its target audience hopes to be out on dates.
Variety is a moribund TV genre, but NBC will try to bring it back with the versatile Neil Patrick Harris. He’ll star in a Tuesday night show this fall that will feature stunts, skits and musical numbers, based on the British show “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.”
Besides Nelson and Harris, NBC’s new series feature boldfaced names like Jennifer Lopez (“Shades of Blue”), Rob Lowe (“You, Me and the End of the World”), Wesley Snipes (“The Player”), Eva Longoria (“Hot & Bothered”), Oliver Platt and S. Epatha Merkerson (“Chicago Med”) and America Ferrara (“Superstore”).
NBC also promised a TV movie based on Dolly Parton’s life and a miniseries, “The Reaper,” about an African-American sniper credited with 33 kills in a 10-day deployment in Afghanistan.
Contributing: Sun-Times reporter Darel Jevens