NEW YORK -- NBC is hoping that sitcom pros Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes can conjure their magic once more.
The beleaguered network announced its 2013-14 lineup Sunday with a focus on restocking its dwindling comedy pantry. “The Office” and “30 Rock” signed off this season, and the network just axed several freshman flops, including Matthew Perry’s “Go On."
So in addition to the returning “Parks and Recreation,” Thursdays will also see “Sean Saves the World,” starring Sean Hayes of “Will & Grace” fame as a divorced gay dad, and “The Michael J. Fox Show,” headlining the former star of “Family Ties” and “Spin City” as a newsman trying to restart his career after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (the affliction that Fox battles in real life).
Aiming for a family-friendly vibe, NBC will cap the night with “Parenthood,” the one-hour comedy-drama entering its fifth season. Although the series has yet to catch on as a major hit, it has retained a consistent fan base over the years.
“Thursday will have a family theme,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt wrote in a statement. (In an unusual move, Greenblatt did not hold the customary conference call with reporters to answer questions about the new schedule.)
At 10 p.m. Mondays, the network will rely on another established TV star, James Spader — formerly of “The Practice,” “Boston Legal” and “The Office” — in a crime drama, “The Blacklist,” which was among the highest-testing pilots on any network this year. It will take the place of the post-apocalyptic drama “Revolution,” which will now kick off Wednesdays.
Given the high failure rate of its shows this season, NBC had a significant number of holes to fill and is scheduling six new series for fall with another half-dozen tapped for midseason.
But despite all that new inventory, the network is minimizing risk by relying on bankable stars and generally shunning edgy, high-concept fare. Its singing hit “The Voice” will anchor Mondays and Tuesdays in both the fall and midseason. The 10 p.m. Wednesday slot goes to “Ironside,” a remake of the 1970s detective drama with yet another boldface name, Blair Underwood. Given the age of its star (48) and the brand, that show is likely to skew somewhat older than many advertisers would prefer.
Much of NBC’s strategy revolves around the Winter Olympics, which will air in January and help launch the midseason offerings.
“The overriding strategy this year was to develop enough strong comedies and dramas to take advantage of the promotional heft of the Winter Olympics and devise two schedules for the upcoming season: one for fall and a slightly different one for midseason,” Greenblatt wrote.
One timeslot where the network will throw the dice is 10 p.m. Fridays — not usually a hotbed of experimentation. In the fall, Jonathan Rhys Myers of “The Tudors” will play “Dracula” in a new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s vampire tale. In midseason, John Malkovich will play the legendary pirate Blackbeard in the pirate drama “Crossbones.”
After NFL games and the Winter Olympics end in January, executives are betting heavily on two new Sunday dramas, the supernatural thriller “Believe” and the political drama “Crisis.”
“We think it’s time for big dramas again on Sunday nights,” Greenblatt wrote.
Notably, the network delayed decisions on possible returns for “Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump and the serial-killer thriller “Hannibal.” Also, while the sitcom “Community” has already been renewed, it did not appear on either the fall or midseason lists provided by the network.
NBC may have upstaged the fall announcement by confirming earlier on Sunday that Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live” will take over the “Late Night” franchise once Jimmy Fallon becomes host of “Tonight” next year. Although the move had been widely expected, many TV insiders assumed NBC would save the news for its “upfront” presentation on Monday.
You can find the NBC lineup here.