NBC: Help is on the way

I'm writing some quick stories at the Television Critics Association sessions and putting them here, after I send them to papers. The previous story -- see previouys blog -- had "The Real L Word" people talking about nudity in Sunday's show (Aug. 1); here's a newsy overview of NBC:

sorta-makeshift line-up fails this fall, don't worry. There are more
shows – plenty of them – ready for mid-season.

A year ago, the network was preparing
to launch Jay Leno across five nights of prime time. It was a huge
task for a fourth-place network. “We made too many changes, too
quickly, from a point of weakness,” said Jeff Gaspin, chairman of
TV entertainment for NBC and Universal.

Soon, NBC was scrambling to fill holes.
“We're trying to rebuild,” Gaspin said.

They're doing that with quantity. The
network has drawn some early buzz for “The Event,” a complex
thriller from “Alias” producer J.J. Abrams; other shows, however,
have drawn shrugs.

Still, there are many waiting for
mid-season. They include:

– “Parks and Recreation,” now
with Rob Lowe as a regular, in his role as an intense state auditor.

– Two more situation comedies,
“Friends With Benefits” and a Paul Reiser show.

– “Love Bites,” an hour-long show
mixing several short comedy bits in the fashion of the old “Love,
American Style.” It was originally set for September, then delayed.

– Two dramas. “The Cape” is an
action-hero show. “Harry's Law” has David E. Kelley returning to
lawyer shows, as he did with “L.A. Law,” “Ally McBeal” and
“The Practice.” The “Harry” (actually, Harriet) is played by
Kathy Bates, who is also returning to “The Office.”

There are more shows on the way for
later, including a key one. Producer-director Peter Berg (“Friday
Night Lights”) and writer Alex Cunningham are adapting the British
hit “Prime Suspect.”

The original had Helen Mirren as the
first woman to lead a police homicide unit. That isn't unique now,
said Angela Bromstad, head of primetime programming, “but it's
still a very male-oriented field.”

Bromstad also announced that “Friday
Night Lights” will have a live episode Oct. 14 and two shows will
get early starts after the final “America's Got Talent” episodes
– “Parenthood on Sept. 14 and “Outlaw” (Jimmy Smits' new
court drama) on Sept. 15.

The next night, “The Apprentice”
will have a two-hour season-opener. After that, it gets the 10 p.m.
Thursday spot originally given to “Love Bites.”