| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES NBC, hoping to rescue its ratings
from a three-year slump, is enlisting a bionic woman, a time
traveler and a computer nerd named Chuck to help finish the job
started by the superhuman stars of its biggest new hit,
The General Electric Co.-controlled broadcaster plans to
order five new dramas for the prime-time schedule it will
unveil officially to advertisers on Monday, a network insider
told Reuters on Friday.
NBC is the first of the major networks slated to showcase
their wares next week for the 2007-08 broadcast season, kicking
off the annual "upfront" advertising market in which some $9
billion in commercial time will likely be booked in advance.
New shows will include several with sci-fi themes -- a
remake of the 1970s series "The Bionic Woman," a drama called
"Journeyman" about a time-traveling journalist, and "Chuck,"
about a young computer whiz who becomes a government agent
after espionage secrets are downloaded into his brain.
NBC also has ordered a second season of its critically
praised but low-rated teen football drama, "Friday Night
Lights," which won the prestigious Peabody Award last month.
The renewal of "Lights," along with the acclaimed TV satire
"30 Rock," keeps with NBC Entertainment President Kevin
Reilly's recent mantra, coined by predecessor Grant Tinker,
about giving worthy shows a chance to grow -- "be best, then be
But the fate of several NBC veteran programs remains
uncertain, including Donald Trump's boardroom reality show "The
Apprentice," hospital comedy "Scrubs," long-running legal drama
"Law & Order" and its spinoff, "Criminal Intent."
The outlook is more doubtful for "Studio 60 on the Sunset
Strip," a much-ballyhooed show within a show from "The West
Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin. The struggling drama is widely
expected to be dumped after wrapping its first season in June.
DESPERATE FOR HITS
NBC, which has come under scrutiny from GE investors for
its lackluster performance, is desperate for new hits.
The network has languished in a ratings rut since longtime
comedy favorites "Friends" and "Frasier" ended their runs three
years ago, and it trails in fourth place behind Fox, CBS and
ABC in the Nielsen rankings.
Indeed, NBC is expected to finish the season with its
lowest marks ever in the ratings race it once dominated for the
viewers most coveted by advertisers, those aged 18 to 49.
NBC got off to a promising start last fall with its new
"Sunday Night Football" telecasts and the launch of "Heroes," a
drama about a group of ordinary people who gain extraordinary
powers. But the network hit the skids as the football season
ended and every new NBC drama but "Heroes" failed to win fans.
"Heroes" lost momentum, too, after going off the schedule
for a six-week hiatus, although it remains the No. 1 new series
of the season among all networks. NBC's hit game show "Deal or
No Deal" likewise has waned in the ratings.
In addition to "The Bionic Woman," "Journeyman" and
"Chuck," NBC is expected to pick up a new drama, "Life," about
a wrongly imprisoned police officer returning to the force
after his release.
A fifth new drama that may emerge on NBC's schedule is "The
Lipstick Jungle," based on a best-selling book by "Sex and the
City" writer Candace Bushnell following the lives of three
professional women, one of them played by Brooke Shields.