NBC plans to add five new series for fall

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After losing two of its signature comedies, NBC will add five new series in the fall, casting Heather Locklear as an airport chief and bringing a crime drama back to the 50th state.

Locklear stars with Blair Underwood in "LAX," while "Hawaii" recalls the long-running series "Hawaii Five-O," which ran from 1968 to '80, and "Magnum, P.I.," from 1980 to '88 (both on CBS).

NBC was the first of the broadcast networks to announce its schedule, part of a full week of such unveilings to advertisers, who are then expected to buy some $9 billion worth of commercial time. ABC and the WB are up Tuesday.

Initially worried about the impact of losing two high-profile shows, NBC had a solid season and minted a new hit, "The Apprentice," which will be back in another version in the fall.

"The bottom line is we are so much stronger than we expected to be at this point," said Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group.

As previously announced, Matt LeBlanc's "Friends" spinoff, "Joey," will take over his old show's key time slot Thursday at 8 p.m. NBC considered calming anxiety about its Thursday schedule so important that it showed a crowd of advertising executives at Radio City Music Hall the full first episode of "Joey."

"Reports of our demise (on Thursday) have been greatly exaggerated," said Zucker, predicting NBC will get better ratings on Thursdays next season because it will have fewer reruns.

NBC's Tuesday night undergoes the biggest makeover, with the comedies "Whoopi" and "Happy Family" getting the ax.

The "Frasier" time slot at 9 p.m. Tuesday will be filled with an animated comedy, "Father of the Pride," about the lions that perform in Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas show.

In scheduling only two new comedies, one a spinoff with a proven character, NBC was acknowledging how difficult it is to establish new sitcoms.

"Now the funniest guy on NBC is Stone Phillips," Conan O'Brien joked to the advertisers.

NBC said that it's emphasizing a year-round schedule, with new original programming premiering throughout the season. Besides the traditional fall schedule announcement, NBC picked up seven additional new series that will come on at some point next season.

Some already have time slots: "Revelations," a thriller starring Bill Pullman as a scientist worried about Armageddon, will fill in for "The West Wing" in midseason; and "The Contender," Mark Burnett and Sylvester Stallone's boxing reality series, will go up against "American Idol" on Tuesdays.

In something of a surprise, the anticipated third spinoff of "Law & Order" starring Jerry Orbach wasn't included on the fall schedule.

NBC also announced that Dennis Farina will join the cast of "Law & Order"; that the comedy "Scrubs" has been renewed for two seasons; and that Carson Daly has signed up for three more years as host of "Last Call." Daly will also take after his mentor, Dick Clark, by being host of a New Year's Eve special.

Additional new shows ordered by NBC:

* "Medical Investigation," a drama based on true stories about medical mysteries from the National Institutes of Health. It's on the fall schedule for Friday.

* "Crazy for You," a midseason comedy with Jennifer Finnigan ("Crossing Jordan") and Josh Cooke as a mismatched romantic couple.

* "The Men's Room," a midseason comedy about three men -- aged 22, 32 and 42 -- trying to come to grips with life at different stages.

* "The Office," an American remake of the popular British series, scheduled for midseason.


NBC's fall schedule:

MONDAY: "Fear Factor" (8 p.m.); "Las Vegas" (9); "LAX," with Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood in drama about crazy world at huge airport (10).

TUESDAY: "Average Joe," and later, "The Contender," Sly Stallone's reality boxing series (8); "Pride," about the big cats in Siegfried & Roy's act (9); "Scrubs" (9:30); "L&O: SVU."

WEDNESDAY: "Hawaii," cop show set in you-know- where (8); "The West Wing," following later in the season by the limited-run series "Revelations," with Bill Pullman as a guy working to save humanity from the Apocalyse (9); "L&O" with Dennis Farina joining the cast (10).

THURSDAY: "Joey," or Matt/Joey moves to L.A. (8); "Will & Grace" (8:30); "The Apprentice" (9); "ER" (10).

FRIDAY: "Dateline NBC" (8); "Third Watch" (9); "Medical Investigation," a "CSI"-like drama based on true stories from the National Institutes of Health (10).

SATURDAY: "Apprentice" repeat (8); Movie (9).

SUNDAY: "Dateline" (7); "American Dreams" (8); "L&O: CI" (9); "Crossing Jordan" (10)."

Newsday contributed to this article.

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