NBC hoping stars can recapture Thursday magic
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Former "Will & Grace" actor Sean Hayes will star as a gay divorced dad in "Sean Saves the World," one of three new NBC comedies.
NEW YORK — NBC will try to awaken the ghosts of past dominance on Thursday night by making it a "family night" of television bolstered by the additions of Sean Hayes and Michael J. Fox.
NBC on Sunday became the first of the major broadcasters to announce its plans for next season, and its executives said they had ordered a staggering 17 new series. Only six of them are on fall's schedule, however, with another six to join in midseason when NBC hopes to get a burst of attention from its telecast of the Winter Olympics.
The struggling network is also taking a risk by moving two of its young and promising dramas to new nights: "Revolution" will switch from Monday to Wednesday, and "Chicago Fire" from Wednesday to Tuesday.
After an encouraging start to the current season last fall behind Sunday Night Football and "The Voice," the bottom fell out in midwinter when those two shows went away. NBC had some historically bad ratings, even falling behind the Spanish-speaking Univision in the February sweeps. Its executives were not made available to speak about the plans on Sunday.
Thursday used to be "must-see TV" on NBC in the 1990s but its decline symbolized the network's troubles. NBC's new emphasis for Thursday will be on broader-based, family comedies instead of shows like "The Office" which was a hit with critics but not the audience.
NBC will seek a turnaround with "Sean Saves the World," starring Hayes as a divorced gay dad who juggles work with raising a teenage daughter. Fox's show mirrors his life — he plays a character getting back to work after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The third new Thursday comedy is "Welcome to the Family," about a white high school graduate impregnated by her Latino boyfriend.
Amy Poehler's "Parks and Recreation" will be back to open NBC's Thursday schedule. The network announced that the quirky "Community" had been renewed, but it hasn't found a spot on the schedule yet.
The drama "Parenthood" will air Thursdays at 9 p.m.
NBC has canceled several of its shows, including the newsmagazine "Rock Center," the Matthew Perry comedy "Go On" and the quickly forgotten comedies "The New Normal," "Up All Night," "Guys With Kids," "1600 Penn" and "Whitney."
The network said no decision has been made on the future of the low-rated serial killer drama "Hannibal" or the durable Donald Trump game "Celebrity Apprentice."
New fall dramas include "The Blacklist," which stars James Spader as fugitive who volunteers to help the FBI catch a terrorist; and "Ironside," with Blair Underwood as a New York City detective who uses a wheelchair.
NBC said two new comedies will replace "The Biggest Loser" on Tuesdays in midseason. And when football goes away, the network will try two new dramas on Sunday nights: "Believe," a J.J. Abrams series about a girl coming to grips with superpowers, and "Crisis," about a bus full of children of Washington elite who are kidnapped.
Bob Greenblatt, president of NBC Entertainment, said in a statement that "this is the most robust and highest-testing slate of new shows we have had in years."
Still, odds are in television that more new shows fail rather than succeed, and the newly ordered programs that don't yet have a spot on NBC's schedule will surely replace some of the failures.
Here are NBC's other new shows:
• "About a Boy," based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name, is a comedy about single man who bonds with the 11-year-old son of a woman — played by Minnie Driver — who moves in next door. It is scheduled to air Tuesday nights in midseason.
• "The Family Guide," a sitcom about a divorced family, is already looking for a new lead: actress Parker Posey dropped out in the past few days. NBC has time to recast it, since the show is scheduled for Tuesdays in midseason.
• "Undateable," from "Scrubs" producer Bill Lawrence, another comedy in a long line of "Friends"-inspired shows about young people and romantic entanglements.
• "Chicago PD," a companion to "Chicago Fire," by veteran producer Dick Wolf. A drama about the rivalry between uniformed cops and the intelligence unit.
• "Crossbones," with John Malkovich as the 18th century pirate Blackbeard. On the schedule for Fridays in midseason.
• "Dracula," a drama beginning in the fall about the iconic character. It airs Friday in the fall, replaced by "Crossbones" in midseason.
• "The Night Shift," a medical drama focused on the overnight crew in a San Antonio hospital.
• "The Million Second Quiz," a trivia game show that unfolds over 12 consecutive days.
• "Food Fighters," a cooking game hosted by Adam Richman that has professional chefs trying to outdo amateurs offering a much-beloved family recipe.
• "American Dream Builders," a home renovation show hosted by Nate Berkus.
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