Fall TV season: With new program picks, NBC aims for yuppies again

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As the broadcasters rush to unveil their fall lineups to advertisers next week in New York, no network has more riding on the outcome than NBC.

The brand that dominated TV for 20 years, starting in the mid-1980s with smash hits such as ‘The Cosby Show,’ then ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld,’ has spent the last six years stuck in last place as its managers pursued what they believed was a forward-looking strategy aimed at cutting costs. Now the network has a new owner — cable giant Comcast — and a much-admired new programmer — Bob Greenblatt, formerly of Showtime — who are bent on restoring the luster of a network that once set standards for both quality and ratings in prime time.

With Greenblatt at the helm, the network is trying to lure the same upscale, educated young audience it once had a lock on. NBC has ordered ‘Smash,’ a musical comedy set on Broadway, which is earning comparisons with Fox’s hit ‘Glee,’ that stars Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston and is produced by Steven Spielberg. It also picked up ‘Prime Suspect,’ an update of the classy British detective series with Helen Mirren that ran on PBS (Maria Bello will play the lead), as well as comedies with Christina Applegate and Whitney Cummings.

To read more about NBC’s strategy and risks, click here.

— Scott Collins (