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NBC turns to 'Will & Grace' and 'This Is Us' to revive 'Must See TV' Thursdays

NBC turns to 'Will & Grace' and 'This Is Us' to revive 'Must See TV' Thursdays
"Will & Grace" cast members Eric McCormack, from left, Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

NBC's new schedule for the 2017-18 season will attempt to recreate the mystique of its vaunted "Must See TV" Thursday night line-ups.

In the schedule announced Sunday, the network is moving its breakout hit drama "This Is Us," to 9 p.m. Thursday, and will use the Must See TV tagline to promote its new night. The night will also have a revival of a past "Must See" favorite, "Will & Grace," which returns to NBC for a 12-episode run with its original cast. It will air at 8 p.m.

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NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt believes "This Is Us," a show that received critical kudos as well as strong ratings, gives the network permission to dust off the Must See TV label.

"We think 'This Is Us' is a show that's peerless at the moment in broadcast television and we decided to move it to Thursday night and not just throw it there and hope for the best, but strategically surround it with shows that are very strong and our hope is to create the return of Must See TV," Greenblatt said in a telephone press conference.

The move is a sign of how, as the television marketplace becomes more crowded, any kind of brand name or marketing theme that resonates with the audience is embraced. The Must See TV promotional tag was first used in the 1990s, when NBC had such powerhouse hits as "Friends," "Seinfeld," "ER" and the original "Will & Grace" on a night that it long dominated in the ratings.

Thursday is also a coveted night for advertisers who want to reach moviegoers and shoppers before the weekend.

"This Is Us" will also get a special airing in the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot after NBC's broadcast of the game on Feb. 4, 2018.

"Will & Grace" will be paired with a returning comedy, "Great News," for which Tina Fey is executive producer and may be an occasional guest star in the next season.

The new Must See TV lineup will be capped at 10 p.m. by a new true-crime iteration of the "Law & Order" franchise from Dick Wolf that will dramatize the Menendez brothers murder case. Edie Falco has been cast in the series.

The Thursday night lineup will be off for six weeks during the fall as NBC airs its share of the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" package.

On Monday, "The Voice" returns to lead off the night at 8 p.m., leading into "The Brave," a new drama about a military special ops squad that stars Anne Heche.

The Tuesday edition of "The Voice" will be followed by returning comedies "Superstore" and "The Good Place," with "Chicago Fire" returning to 10 p.m.

"The Blacklist" will be back in a new time — period Wednesday at 8 p.m. — followed by "Law & Order: SVU" at 9 p.m. and "Chicago P.D." at 10.

The drama "Blindspot" moves to Friday at 8 p.m. followed by a second season of "Taken" at 9 and "Dateline NBC" at 10.

"Dateline Saturday Night Mystery" and encore episodes of "Saturday Night Live" will return on Saturday. "NBC Sunday Night Football" runs through December.

"Chicago Med," "Little Big Shots," "Shades of Blue," "Timeless," and "The Wall" have also been renewed. No decision has been made on the future of "Chicago Justice" and "Trial and Error." The network will make a decision on its summer shows, which include the comedy "The Carmichael Show," once they air later this year.

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In a similar strategy to last season, NBC will enter the fall with just a few new shows to avoid the clutter of the season launch and roll out its series throughout the year.

The other new series ordered include:

"A.P. Bio," a comedy about a philosophy scholar who loses out on a coveted job and goes to work as an advanced placement biology teacher. Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt are in the cast of the series which lists Lorne Michaels and Seth Meyers among its executive producers.

"Champions," a comedy about a charismatic gym owner whose simple hedonistic life is interrupted by the arrival of a teenage son from one of his high school flings, stars Anders Holm and Andy Favreau. The series is executive produced by Mindy Kaling.

"Good Girls" is a dark comedy about three suburban moms that the network describes as a mix of "Thelma & Louise" and "Breaking Bad." Retta, Mae Whitman and Reno Wilson are in the cast.

"Reverie" stars Sarah Shahi as a former hostage negotiator turned college professor who is enlisted to save people who become lost in an advanced virtual reality program where they can live out their dreams.

"Rise" is from Jason Katims, the writer and executive producer of "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood," and Jeffrey Seller, a producer of the Broadway hit "Hamilton. It stars Josh Radnor as a teacher who takes over his school's theater department.

NBC has also ordered game shows produced by Ellen DeGeneres ("Ellen's Game of Games") and Neil Patrick Harris ("Genius Junior") and a do-it-yourself reality competition series, "The Handmade Project," executive produced and co-hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.

The network has also picked up "The Awesome Show," a series hosted by Chris Hardwick that will showcase scientific and technological breakthroughs.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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