NBC Prepares Ground For Life After Friends

NBC bragged that it's the No. 1 network in adults 18-49 in every single daypart for the second year running, and, at its upfront presentation last week, NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker promised a three-peat.

With Friends on board for its absolute final year—Zucker swears—and 24/7 coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, he is probably not going to break his promise. It's year 2004 and beyond that NBC needs to worry about.

NBC hopes the 2003-04 schedule will go a long way toward helping the network maintain its dominant position in prime time. To that end, NBC plans three new comedies and three new dramas this fall, with one comedy on deck for mid-season.

Zucker's biggest priority is to fix Tuesday night in the 8-9 slot, and he hopes Whoopi Goldberg, John Larroquette and Christine Baranski are up to the task.

The network also hopes that Coupling
on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. will be as big a hit in the U.S. as it is in the UK. Biggest surprise of the schedule? Moving Law & Order: SVU
from Fridays to Tuesdays at 10 p.m., where it will face ABC stalwart NYPD Blue.

New for the Fall

3 sitcoms / 3 dramas

(sitcom, Thursday, 9:30)—"The hottest sextet to hit television in a decade," Zucker says of this British sex-drenched comedy that is heir apparent to Friends
for 2004-05. Executive-produced by Phoef Sutton, Ben Silverman, Beryl Vertue, Sue Vertue and Steven Moffat. From NBC Studios, Reveille and Universal Television.

(sitcom, Tuesday, 8)—Goldberg as ex-pop singer who now runs a small Manhattan hotel. Executive-produced by Goldberg, Tom Werner, Marcy Carsey and Caryn Mandabach. From Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and NBC Studios.

Happy Family
(sitcom, Tuesday, 8:30)—A married couple (Baranski and Larroquette) can't quite get their adult kids to move out. Written and executive-produced by Moses Port and David Guarascios, from NBC Studios.

Las Vegas
(drama, Monday, 9)—Elite casino security team at work. Sexy, flashy. Gary Scott Thompson executive-produces with Scott Steindorff, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. From NBC Studios and DreamWorks Television.

The Lyon's Den
(drama, Sunday, 10)—Rob Lowe is part of a secretive upper-crust Washington law firm. Remi Aubuchon writes and executive-produces, along with Lowe, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein and director Rod Holcomb. From 20th Century Fox and Brillstein-Grey Television.

Miss Match
(drama, Friday, 8)—Light-hearted yarn starring Alicia Silverstone as divorce attorney/matchmaker. Darren Star, Jeff Rake, Brian Grazer and David Nevins executive-produce. From 20th Television with Imagine Entertainment and Darren Star Productions.

For Midseason

The Tracy Morgan Show (sitcom)—Based on Saturday Night Live's Morgan's experiences raising a family. David Israel, Jim O'Doherty and Lorne Michaels executive-produce, along with David Miner, Dave Becky, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach. From Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, NBC Studios, SNL Studios and 3 Arts.

The Apprentice (reality)—From Survivor's Mark Burnett, NYC media tycoon Donald Trump eliminates job candidates until he finds a worthy apprentice for six-figure job. From Mark Burnett Productions.