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NBC takes its medicine: New nurse, paramedic shows

LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) ó Jay Leno’s bid for prime-time triumph next season will be backed by nurses, paramedics and filmmaker Ron Howard.

NBC is adding four new dramas to its 2009-10 schedule, including a pair of medical shows and the Howard-produced “Parenthood,” based on the 1989 movie he directed, the network announced Monday.

Two new comedies, “Community” with Chevy Chase and “100 Questions,” were announced, and the network is ordering prime-time episodes of the “Saturday Night Live” fake newscast “Weekend Update.” NBC said it’s renewing “Heroes” and newcomers “Parks & Recreation” with Amy Poehler and police drama “Southland.”

NBC is building its next schedule on a bold gambit, giving its daily 10 p.m. EDT slot to “The Jay Leno Show” ó the title announced Monday ó after he steps aside as “Tonight” show host this month. Conan O’Brien takes over the late-night talk show June 1.

The fourth-place network, which has struggled to launch new shows, is “doubling down on its scripted commitment,” said Ben Silverman, co-chair of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.

“We’re going to have more strength from 8 to 10 p.m. than we’ve ever had to assure that Jay has big lead-ins,” Silverman said.

NBC had previously announced the return of “30 Rock,” ”The Office,” ”Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” ”The Celebrity Apprentice,” ”Biggest Loser” and “Friday Night Lights.”

The new reality shows “The Marriage Ref,” produced by Jerry Seinfeld; “Breakthrough With Tony Robbins” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” also had been announced.

The fate of other series won’t be known until NBC unveils its full schedule May 19. That includes “Medium,” ”Chuck,” ”My Name Is Earl” and the original “Law & Order.”

NBC’s announcement jumped the gun on the traditional “upfront week” in which networks present their lineups to the advertisers who make preseason ad buys.

Seth Meyers anchors “Weekend Update,” which is expected to kick off NBC’s Thursday nights. The network already has two comedies on Thursday starring former “Weekend Update” anchors ó Poehler and Tina Fey of “30 Rock,” and it’s likely they’ll be making return visits.

That announcement doesn’t seem to bode well for “My Name Is Earl,” a comedy considered on the bubble, but Silverman said no decision has been made about the show.

NBC’s new series represent “bold, original concepts” that share an upbeat message, said Angela Bromstad, prime-time entertainment president for NBC and Universal Media Studios.

They are “fundamentally a positive portrayal of who we are as human beings, who we are as a community, and that ultimately we strive to do the right thing,” she said in an interview.

The new shows announced Monday:

ó “Parenthood,” starring Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”), Maura Tierney (“ER”), Craig T. Nelson (“Coach”) and Bonnie Bedelia as family members dealing with the pressures of life. The show was shadowed by tragedy last week when NBC executive Nora O’Brien died after collapsing on the set in Northern California.

ó “Trauma,” about the heroics of San Francisco paramedics and deemed by Silverman the “adrenaline-rush” successor to NBC’s recently departed “ER.” The cast includes Derek Luke (“Notorious”), Aimee Garcia (“George Lopez”) and Jamey Sheridan (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”). Peter Berg is the executive producer.

ó “Mercy,” a hospital drama that puts nurses at center stage. The ensemble cast includes Taylor Schilling (“Dark Matter”), Jamie Lee Kirchner (“Rescue Me”), James Tupper (“Men in Trees”) and Guillermo Diaz (“Weeds”).

ó “Day One,” a saga about neighbors who must rebuild their lives and society after a mysterious catastrophe decimates the world’s infrastructure. Adam Campbell (“Date Movie”), Catherine Dent (“The Shield”) and Julie Gonzalo (“Eli Stone”) star. The drama is planned as a “big event” to follow the Winter Olympics, Silverman said.

ó “100 Questions,” a comedy about a young woman (Sophie Winkleman, “Peep Show”), looking for love with the help of an online dating site and counselor (Amir Talai, “The Ex List”). It’s a traditional multicamera sitcom, a format that has dimmed in popularity in recent years, but which NBC believes in, Bromstad said.

ó “Community,” a sitcom about community college misfits that brings Chevy Chase of “Saturday Night Live” fame back to TV. The cast includes Joel McHale (“The Soup”), Gillian Jacobs (“The Book of Daniel”) and Yvette Nicole Brown (“Rules of Engagement”).

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