Sean Hayes, Michael J. Fox part of NBC comeback plan
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org May 13, 2013 9:06PM
Michael J. Fox
Updated: June 15, 2013 6:21AM
A whopping 17 new TV series — including two shot in Chicago — are headed to NBC, where a series of recent flops have left the beleaguered network with more than its share of holes to fill.
The Peacock net hasn’t been so proud lately. A strong fall season propped up by “Sunday Night Football” and “The Voice” imploded earlier this year, leaving NBC trailing behind Spanish-language Univision in the February sweeps.
The network is hoping a slew of new offerings — several anchored by tried-and-true stars — as well as the return of football and “The Voice” and the marketing muscle of next year’s Winter Games will help it put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
“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,” NBC Entertainment head Bob Greenblatt said about the new programming slate, rolled out for advertisers Monday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. “This is the most robust and highest-testing slate of new shows we’ve had in years.”
The most significant overhaul to the schedule comes on Thursday nights, where “Parks and Recreation” remains the lone holdover after longtime occupants “30 Rock” and “The Office” both will have ended their runs this year.
Greenblatt said he wants to give Thursdays a family theme (read: he’s longing for the ratings heyday of “The Cosby Show”). To that end, west suburban native Sean Hayes (“Will & Grace”) makes his return with “Sean Saves the World,” a sitcom about a gay dad trying to single-parent his teenage daughter. Other local talent on the show includes Oak Park native Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”) and South Sider Echo Kellum of the recently canceled Fox comedy “Ben and Kate.”
Another familiar face making an NBC comeback this fall is Michael J. Fox. Based on trailers, Fox’s eponymous show seems to be the funniest of the trio of new Thursday sitcoms. The bankable star plays a television newsman and father with Parkinson’s disease, looking to get back into the workforce. Chicago-born Katie Finneran (“I Hate My Teenage Daughter”) is part of the cast.
The lame-looking “Welcome to the Family” — two opposite households united by one pregnant high schooler — seems to be the Achilles’ heel of the Thursday comedy block, which leads into the net’s ever-improving drama “Parenthood” on its new night.
Other returning dramas shifting to different days on the schedule: “Revolution,” which could suffer from its move to Wednesdays, and “Chicago Fire,” likely to get even hotter in its plum post-“Voice” timeslot on Tuesdays.
The fates of “Hannibal” and “Celebrity Apprentice” remain up in the air. Not so for a slew of comedies that got the ax: “Go On,” “The New Normal,” “Guys With Kids,” “Up All Night,” “1600 Penn” and “Whitney.” In a bit of a surprise move, NBC renewed cult-favorite “Community” but didn’t specify when it would air.
“Chicago Fire,” from veteran “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf, proved to be one of NBC’s few success stories from last fall’s line-up. It’s being rewarded with a police-focused spinoff, “Chicago PD,” whose midseason premiere date has yet to be set.
Another new series that will be filmed in Chicago is the midseason series “Crisis.” Starring Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney, who both went to college here, it’s a political thriller about a bus full of clouted-up kids who get kidnapped.
Longtime Steppenwolf member John Malkovich will do a turn as legendary pirate Blackbeard in “Crossbones,” a midseason offering slated for Fridays. It will take over for the 19th century-set “Dracula” (a decent pairing with “Grimm”), one of NBC’s three dramas debuting this fall. Another — the most promising of the lot — is “The Blacklist,” featuring James Spader as a disturbingly detached former federal agent and fugitive who volunteers to help the FBI catch a terrorist. One-time Chicago Public Schools teacher Harry Lennix (“Dollhouse,” “Emily Owens, M.D.”) co-stars and Chicago native John Eisendrath (“Alias”) serves as showrunner.
Rounding out the trio of new fall dramas is a remake of the ’70s crime show “Ironside,” this time with Blair Underwood as the wheelchair-bound cop. It also stars Chicago actor Kenneth Choi (“Sons of Anarchy”).
Chicago designer Nate Berkus will helm a new home makeover show, “American Dream Builders,” later in the season.
One Chicagoan who won’t be part of NBC’s prime-time landscape is former “Saturday Night Live” writer John Mulaney. The net took a pass on Mulaney’s buzzy pilot, loosely based on the stand-up comic’s life.