NBC hopes to laugh its way out of ratings hole this fall; network announces new schedule
Published: May 13, 2012 01:06PM
Updated: May 13, 2012 01:10PM
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THE NEW NORMAL -- Season: Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Ellen Barkin as Jane, Andrew Rannells as Bryan, Georgia King as Goldie, Bebe Wood as Shania, Justin Bartha as David -- (Photo by: Robert Trachtenberg/NBC)

NBC hasn't had a lot to laugh about in the past few years, what with being perpetually mired in last place in the ratings.

But the network is hoping to laugh its way out of the ratings cellar this fall with a schedule that includes 10 sitcoms (six returning; four new) and just five dramas (three returning; two new).

The Peacock Network unveiled three more midseason sitcoms and three more midseason dramas as well.

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt announced a slate that will add comedies to Tuesdays and Friday nights, keep Thursday night's four-sitcom lineup largely intact (for the moment) - although "Community" will join "Whitney" on Fridays.

(Both "Community" and "Parks and Recreation" received only 13-episode orders, which is not a big vote of confidence for a returning series.)

NBC is the first of the networks to formally announce it fall schedule, and this is the time of year when there are always high hopes and enthusiasm. Most new shows don't succeed, however. And, at this point, critics haven't seen the pilots so it's impossible to say whether the hype is merited.

At first glance, however, it's clear that NBC still faces an uphill climb. Not only is it tough to launch a lot of new shows, but the network has made some risky moves Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And not just be adding new sitcoms or moving low-rated returning comedies.

It's fairly shocking that the low-rated newsmagazine "Rock Center" was renewed, let alone give the Thursday 9 p.m. time slot. And it's a risk to add a second cycle of "The Voice" to the fall schedule, in addition to the one that will air in early 2012. It's one of the few shows NBC has that is doing pretty well, and Greenblatt & Co. are risking burning it out by over-exposure.

In addition to several new midseason replacement shows (descriptions are below), NBC announced "Smash" will return in early 2013 as well. "Biggest Loser," "Betty White's Off Their Rockers" and "Fashion Stare" are also on the midseason slate.

Canceled shows include "Awake," "Bent," "Best Friends Forever," ""Harry's Law," ""Are You There, Chelsea?"

NBC FALL 2012-13 SCHEDULE

New shows are in bold; returning shows move to new time slots are in italics. Mountain Times are indicated.

MONDAY

7 p.m. - "The Voice"

9 p.m. - "Revolution"

TUESDAY

7 p.m. - "The Voice"

8 p.m. - "Go On"

8:30 p.m. - "The New Normal"

9 p.m. - "Parenthood"

WEDNESDAY

7 p.m. - "Animal Practice"

7:30 p.m. - "Guys with Kids"

8 p.m. - "Law & Order: SVU"

9 p.m. "Chicago Fire"

THURSDAY

7 p.m. - "30 Rock"

7:30 p.m. - "Up All Night"

8 p.m. - "The Office"

8:30 p.m. - "Parks and Recreation"

9 p.m. - "Rock Center"

FRIDAY

7 p.m. - "Whitney"

7:30 p.m. - "Community"

8 p.m. - "Grimm"

9 p.m. - "Dateline NBC"

SATURDAY

7-1- p.m. - Repeats

SUNDAY

5 p.m. - "Football Night In America"

6:15 p.m. - "Sunday Night Football"

Here are NBC's descriptions of its new shows. Again, the warning here is that critics haven't seen them yet, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

NEW COMEDIES

"Go On" - Misery loves company. Unless you're sportscaster Ryan King (Matthew Perry, "Friends," "Mr. Sunshine") who thinks misery should just be left alone. After taking some time off, Ryan - who recently lost his wife in a car accident - is now ready to get back to work. And while he seems like his same old charming, cocky self, his boss won't set him back on the air until he seeks counseling. So, Ryan reluctantly joins a support group with one goal in mind: get in, get out and get back on the radio as quickly as possible. Played by the fast-talking, sarcastic, and charismatic Perry, Ryan gives grief a real run for its money. Within one day of group therapy, he hijacks the meeting and suddenly the downtrodden are cajoled into playing a game of "who's got the best sob story?" And in no time all of them are battling it out, trying to one-up each other's despair. Now, this is fun! Ryan's total lack of interest in healing might be just what this group needs - and maybe, exactly what he needs to move on with his life. Also starring are Tony winner Laura Benanti ("The Playboy Club"), Julie White ("Transformers"), Suzy Nakamura ("Dodgeball"), Khary Payton ("General Hospital") and Allison Miller ("Terra Nova").

"The New Normal" - These days, families come in all forms - single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night-stand donors... It's 2012 and anything goes. Bryan (Andrew Rannells, "Girls," "The Book of Mormon") and David (Justin Bartha, "The Hangover") are a Beverly Hills couple and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed and loving partnership, the one thing missing is a baby. And just when they think the stars will never align, enter Goldie (Georgia King, "One Day"), an extraordinary young woman with a checkered past. A Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and small-minded grandmother (Ellen Barkin, "Ocean's Thirteen"), Goldie decides to change everything and move to L.A. with her precocious 8-year-old daughter. Desperate and broke - but also fertile - Goldie quickly becomes the guys' surrogate and quite possibly the girl of their dreams. Surrogate mother, surrogate family.

"Animal Practice" - Meet Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk, "Weeds"), a top-dog New York veterinarian. With an unorthodox style of operating, George's success comes from his undeniable gift with animals of all kinds. That is, all but the human kind. Dorothy Crane once held the key to George's heart, but today she also holds the key to the family business as she takes over Crane Animal Hospital. Not only is she George's new boss, but her romantic history with him and her lack of experience with animals is seriously cramping his style. Dorothy is whip-smart and ambitious, and she's going to make George pay for the past. Needless to say, he's determined not to make any changes in his (animal) kingdom -- which includes poker games with a resident capuchin monkey. Also starring are Tyler Labine ("Reaper," "Sons of Tucson") as Dr. Doug Jackson, a vet who's great with animals but hapless in matters of the heart, Bobby Lee ("Harold & Kumar") as Dr. Yamamoto, and newcomer Betsy Sodaro as Angela.

"Guys with Kids" - From Emmy winner and executive producer Jimmy Fallon comes a new comedy about three thirty-something dads trying to hold on to their youth, while holding onto their new babies' hands. Easy, right? Thankfully, Chris (Jesse Bradford, "The West Wing"), Nick (Zach Cregger, "Friends with Benefits") and Gary (Anthony Anderson, "Law & Order") have each other to help navigate their survival as new dads, while still trying desperately to remain dudes. Balancing work or staying at home, painfully married or happily divorced, they know that taking care of the little ones while maintaining a social life is a daily challenge. Whether it's hosing the little squirt down in the kitchen sink or hitting the bar strapped with a baby björn, these guys are on a roller-coaster adventure - parenting like you (and they) have never seen before. Also starring are Jamie Lynn Sigler ("The Sopranos") and Tempestt Bledsoe ("The Cosby Show").

"Save Me" (midseason) - Welcome to the Midwestern suburbs, where exciting things never happen. Well, almost never. After a near-death experience (choking on a hero sandwich), Beth (Emmy nominee Anne Heche, "Hung") is revived only to realize she now has a direct line to God. Of course, her husband Tom (Michael Landes, "Final Destination 2") is skeptical and dismissive - and his mistress (Alexandra Breckenridge, "AMerican Horror Story") is stunned to learn that her lover's wife is now a prophet! But when inexplicable things begin to happen, everyone's beliefs are tested. Beth starts to say and do things that shock her family and entrance her friends, but she isn't going to be your typical "fire and brimstone" prophet. Let's just say, if God had a desperate housewife as His mouthpiece, Beth would be it! She is the absolute last person on Earth who would be chosen. Then again, they say He works in mysterious ways. And this one is a real mystery! Heather Burns ("Bored to Death") and Madison Davenport ("Shameless") also star.

"1600 Penn" (midseason) - The Gilchrists are just the average American family dealing with all the everyday issues - like a grown kid who's forced to move back home, children who are smarter than their teachers and a stepmom (Jenna Elfman, "Dharma and Greg") desperately trying to win over the kids. They're loving, fun and a little crazy. In other words, just like everybody else. With one exception: they live in a very special house. The White House! Whether it's entertaining foreign dignitaries, sneaking away for a night out, dealing with middle school crushes or putting out fires - figuratively and sometimes literally - there's never a dull moment in the Gilchrist White House. For example, the First Son (Josh Gad, star of Broadway sensation "The Book of Mormon") is one of the administration's biggest liabilities, but also the glue that holds this family together. The President (Bill Pullman, "Independence Day," "While You Were Sleeping") knows too well that the only thing harder than being Head of State is being head of the family. Also starring are Martha MacIsaac ("Superbad"), Andre Holland ("Friends with Benefits"), Amara Miller ("The Descendants") and Benjamin Stockham ("Sons of Tucson").

"Next Caller" (midseason) - What happens when a foulmouthed satellite radio DJ - played by the multi-platinum selling artist and outrageously charming Dane Cook ("My Best Friend's Girl") - is forced to share the mic with a chipper NPR feminist? It's anyone's call in this sharp new comedy from producer Stephen Falk ("Weeds") and Emmy-winning director Marc Buckland ("Grimm," "My Name Is Earl"). It's her first day in New York City, and 26-year-old Stella Hoobler (Collette Wolfe, "Young Adult") is ready to take on the world. After a stint on public radio, she's been hired to co-host the no-holds-barred show "Booty Calls with Cam Dunne." Smart, spunky and passionate, Stella is determined to elevate the show beyond its boy's-club-locker-room humor into a respected debate about men, women and the state of human relationships. But there's a problem: Cam! She's going to find out the hard way that he's got no intention of sharing the spotlight, especially with someone like her. It's going to be a tense fight, but with the station's one rule being "make some noise," Cam and Stella could be a winning combination - as long as they don't knock each other out on their way to success.

NEW DRAMAS

"Revolution" - Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working? Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why? Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it? On the fringes of small farming communities, danger lurks. And a young woman's life is dramatically changed when a local militia arrives and kills her father, who mysteriously - and unbeknownst to her - had something to do with the blackout. This brutal encounter sets her and two unlikely companions off on a daring coming-of-age journey to find answers about the past in the hopes of reclaiming the future.

"Chicago Fire" - No job is more stressful, dangerous or exhilarating than those of the Firefighters, Rescue Squad and Paramedics of Chicago Firehouse 51. These are America's everyday heroes -- the courageous men and women who forge headfirst into danger when everyone else is running the other way. But the enormous responsibilities of the job also take a personal toll. Big reputations and hefty egos, coupled with the pressure to perform and make split-second decisions, are bound to put squad members at odds. When a tragedy claims one of their own, there's plenty of guilt and blame to go around. In the middle of a divorce, Lt. Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer, "House M.D.") tries to go about business as usual but can't help butting heads with the brash Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney, "The Vampire Diaries") of the Rescue Squad - and each blames the other for their fallen team member. When it's "go-time" though, they put aside their differences and put everything on the line for each other. "Chicago Fire" is a look inside one of America's noblest professions. Also starring are Eamonn Walker ("The Messenger"), Charlie Barnett, ("Law & Order: SVU"), David Eigenberg ("Sex and the City"), Monica Raymund ("The Good Wife"), Lauren German ("Hawaii Five-O"), Teri Reeves ("Three Rivers") and Merle Dandridge ("Sons of Anarchy").

"Do No Harm" (midseason) Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale, "Rescue Me") is a highly respected neurosurgeon who has it all - a lucrative career, confident charm, the gift of compassion. But he also has a deep, dark secret. One morning when he wakes up disoriented in a wrecked hotel room amidst several near-naked women he's never seen before, he knows one thing: it's happening again. Every night at the same hour, something inside Jason changes, leaving him almost unrecognizable - seductive, devious, borderline sociopathic. This new man is his dangerous alternate personality who goes by the name of 'Ian Price.' For years he's battled Ian, keeping him in check with a powerful experimental sedative. But now his - their - body has developed a resistance to the serum, setting Ian free once again. And to make matters worse, after being suppressed for so long, Ian's hell-bent on taking revenge on his oppressor. With everyone Jason cares about at risk - patients, friends, coworkers and even the woman he loves - he's got to stop Ian once and for all. Will they find some common ground, or will they bring each other down? Hell hath no fury like an alter ego scorned. Also starring are Alana De La Garza ("Law & Order"), Mousa Kraish ("Superbad"), Michael Esper ("A Beautiful Mind"), Ruta Gedmintas ("The Borgias") and Phylicia Rashad ("The Cosby Show").\.

"Infamous" (midseason) - When wealthy socialite and notorious party girl Vivian Bowers is found dead of an overdose, no one is really surprised. The heiress to the Bowers pharmaceutical empire has been tabloid fodder for years: wild, pretty, privileged... and now dead at the age of 32. But for FBI agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso, "Avatar"), things don't add up with this suspicious dynasty. Convinced that the troubled girl's death was a homicide, he has a clever plan to get to the truth. Her name is Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good, "Think Like a Man"). Twenty years ago she was Vivian's best friend and practically grew up inside the Bowers' home. And when she appears at Vivian's funeral, the family re-embraces her and no one is the wiser. Joanna quickly begins to uncover dark secrets and clues about why Vivian's life was very much in danger. At the same time, she rekindles an old romantic relationship and rediscovers the allure of the luxurious lifestyle she once knew. She's about to see once again just how the other half lives... and dies. Also starring are Victor Garber ("Alias"), Tate Donovan ("Damages"), Katherine La Nasa ("Alfie"), Neil Jackson ("Quantum of Solace") and Ella Rae Peck ("Gossip Girl").

"Hannibal" - One of the most fascinating literary characters comes to life on television for the first time: psychiatrist-turned-serial-killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In this new drama from Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "Heroes"), based on the characters from Thomas Harris' classic novels, we see where this incredible story began. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, "The Big C") is a gifted criminal profiler who is on the hunt for a serial killer with the FBI. Graham's unique way of thinking gives him the astonishing ability to empathize with anyone - even psychopaths. He seems to know what makes them tick. But when the mind of the twisted killer he's pursuing is too complicated for even Will to comprehend, he enlists the help of Dr. Lecter, one of the premier psychiatric minds in the country. Armed with the uncanny expertise of the brilliant doctor, Will and Hannibal (known as a serial killer only to the audience) form a brilliant partnership and it seems there's no villain they can't catch. If Will only knew... Fuller is writer and executive producer.

NEW ALTERNATIVE SHOWS

"Stars Earn Stripes" (midseason) - The TV cop who wants to prove he can handle a gun in real life. The athlete making the transition from field to battlefield. The performer who wants to show how well she can perform under a different kind of pressure. In this fierce, entertaining and emotionally charged new competition honoring America's armed forces, nine celebrities will gather at a secret training facility where they will be challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises. From helicopter drops into treacherous locations to long range weapons fire, these stars will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally - and emerge in awe of the men and women who do such tasks on behalf of our country every day. From executive producers Dick Wolf ("Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU"), Mark Burnett ("The Voice," "Survivor") and David A. Hurwitz ("Fear Factor"), this extraordinary show will donate money raised through the competition to veterans' charities.]

"Howie Mandel's White Elephant" (midseason) - From Howie Mandel ("America's Got Talent") comes an exciting new game show based on one of the most wildly popular holiday party games in America. A contestant selects a box from a studio full of unmarked packages containing millions of dollars in prizes, showing what's inside to the others. Then, the next player is faced with a potentially life-changing dilemma: do they steal a prize that has already been revealed, or do they take a chance with another unopened box, hoping what's inside is worth more? But that's just the beginning. When there are only two contestants left, Howie will reveal what's inside the boxes and give the players a choice: share... or steal. If both players choose to share, they will each keep the prizes they have won in the prior rounds. If one player shares and the other steals, the player that chose to steal will go home with all the prizes. But if both choose to steal, they both go home with nothing! The stakes are insanely high as each contestant grapples with the choice of a lifetime... and the white elephant in the room.

"Ready for Love" (midseason) - What does it take to find your soul mate? Well, producer Eva Longoria ("Desperate Housewives") is inviting every eligible woman in America to participate in an innovative and dramatic new dating competition to find out how easy it can be. She has hand-selected three impossibly handsome grooms and enlisted the three best Matchmakers in the world to find them life partners. Let the dating begin! The show kicks off with mass auditions screened by the Matchmakers, and then launches into a romantic journey that will combine the best elements of in-studio competition and story-based reality. Each week, the contestants will be whittled down until the dramatic finale, when the three "grooms" and final three "brides" decide if they'll get engaged, married or simply live happily ever after... because they're all Ready for Love! Bill Rancic ("Giuliana and Bill") and Giuliana DePandi-Rancic ("Giuliana and Bill," "Fashion Police") are the hosts.

"Surprise With Jenny McCarthy" (midseason) - Actress, comedienne and best-selling author Jenny McCarthy hosts "Surprise With Jenny McCarthy," a unique variety show that will treat the audience to a funny, irreverent and heart-warming television experience that centers around giving people surprises of a lifetime. "Surprise With Jenny McCarthy" will spotlight multiple surprises within the one-hour episode -- from dramatic reunions to surprise announcements to good-natured pranks with fantastic feel-good twists. And, whether the surprise is an emotional roller coaster, a heartfelt thank-you, a hero's reward or a slightly devilish prank with a happy ending, viewers get a chance to know the true stories of the people involved, which makes the payoffs all the more meaningful. As ringleader, cheerleader, head instigator and mistress of ceremonies, McCarthy helps pull off all kinds of incredible surprises on people from all walks of life.