NBC can take a joke. That much is clear looking at the lineup it announced Monday morning for the 2012-13 season.
The network's new schedule is remarkably sitcom-saturated. And considering that NBC is mired in fourth place in the ratings, surprisingly static.
NBC is bringing back an old good-luck charm, Matthew Perry from Friends, for Go On, one of four new comedies this fall.
The two new dramas are Revolution, a sci-fi saga from producer J.J. Abrams, and Chicago Fire from Law & Order impresario Dick Wolf.
The supernatural thriller Do No Harm starring Steven (Rescue Me) Pasquale, which shot its pilot in Philadelphia, will join the Sunday night schedule once the NFL season ends.
What stands out most about NBC's master plan for fall is how many struggling programs it decided to hold onto. Are You There, Chelsea?, Harry's Law, and Awake — exit, stage left. The rest of you are safe, believe it or not.
Thursday night's comedy block will now consist of 30 Rock (for a 13-episode stretch run),Up All Night, The Office, and Parks and Recreation. They will be followed by the newsmagazine Rock Center With Brian Williams, which many industry analysts had assumed would not survive to a second season.
Friday is another night of ratings-challenged programming, lead off by sitcom stowaways Whitney and Community. The renewal of the former is a complete mystery; the latter at least has an avid (or is that Abed?) if small fan base.
For the first time, NBCs singing contest The Voice will get a fall launch, airing on two nights from the beginning of the competition to the end. And Smash, the expensive if uneven backstage look at Broadway, will be back at midseason with a new showrunner at the helm.
Here are synopses of NBC's new series:
In Go On, Matthew Perry (Friends, Mr. Sunshine) is a blustery sportscaster who would rather eat glass than talk about his feelings. So when he's forced into a therapy group, sparks are bound to fly. It's Frasier meets Sports Night with a cast that includes Laura Benanti, Allison Miller, Julie White, Khary Payton, and Suzy Nakamura.
Ryan Murphy (Glee) brings us The New Normal. Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells are a successful and sophisticated gay couple in Beverly Hills. What could they possibly see in a tacky single-mom refugee from the Midwest (Georgia King)? Well, she's fertile. And so are the comedic possibilities with a supporting cast that includes NeNe Leakes, Bebe Wood, and Ellen Barkin.
Justin Kirk (Andy Botwin on Weeds) is being described as "the Dr. House of veterinarians" in Animal Practice. He's great with pets, absolutely terrible with their human owners. The supporting cast in this raucous comedy includes Tyler Labine (Sons of Tucson), Bobby Lee, and a scene-stealing capuchin monkey named Crystal. On the show she answers to Dr. Zaius.
From the fevered mind of Jimmy Fallon comes Guys With Kids, a comedy about three new fathers (Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger, and Anthony Anderson) who are trying to negotiate their new responsibilities without letting it encroach on their cherished freedoms as dudes. Jamie Lynn Sigler and Tempestt Bledsoe costar.
Revolution is a futuristic action-adventure hour about a low-tech world in which a group of determined survivors sets out to uncover what went wrong. Put it in the Jericho/Hunger Games genre. Handsome cast includes Tracy Spiridakos, Billy Burke, Andrea Roth, Giancarlo Esposito, Anna Lise Phillips, Tim Guinee, Zak Orth, David Lyons, J.D. Pardo, and Maria Howell. The impressive roster of executive producers boasts J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau, Eric Kripke, and Bryan Burk.
Chicago Fire revolves around the men and women who work out of Firehouse 51 in the Windy City. Firefighters, paramedics and rescue workers all work their stressful jobs under life-and-death conditions. The ensemble cast includes Eamonn Walker, Merle Dandridge, Monica Raymund, Charlie Barnett, Teri Reeves, Lauren German, and David Eigenberg.
Also joining the schedule after the football season ends is the thriller Do No Harm. Steven Pasquale (White Sean on Rescue Me) stars as a brilliant neurosurgeon who begins having these blackouts. There's a dangerous sociopath inside him who is emerging with greater frequency and wreaking greater chaos. Phylicia Rashad, Alana De La Garza, Mousa Kraish, Michael Esper, and Ruta Gedmintas costar.