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New fall TV season: NBC banks on comeback with scripted series starring Christina Applegate, Maria Bello and Katharine McPhee

May 15, 2011 | 10:46 am

Christina applegate nbc shows
Can women save NBC? The network is making a big bet that the route to its long-needed comeback will come through female-skewing scripted series, with a just-announced fall TV schedule that will include a new Wednesday comedy block as well as 10 p.m. dramas every weeknight.

The biggest surprise from Bob Greenblatt, the former Showtime programming chief assembling his first lineup as NBC's entertainment president, is opening Wednesday nights with two new comedies, "Up All Night" with Christina Applegate and "Free Agents" with Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn in an adaptation of a British series.

Watch a clip of NBC's new Christina Applegate sitcom 'Up All Night'

"It was a goal from the get-go to get more comedy on the schedule," Greenblatt said in a phone interview Sunday. "I think it's important to do it somewhere in addition to Thursday." Existing Thursday sitcoms such as "The Office" and "Community" will return next season, although "30 Rock" will be held for midseason. Greenblatt added that he had "no illusions" about how difficult it will be to launch two new comedies in the 8 p.m. hour.

Another big move: Putting "Prime Suspect" -- a reboot of the groundbreaking Helen Mirren crime classic, now with Maria Bello in the starring role -- in the 10 p.m. Thursday slot. That time period has not had a drama since "ER" went off the air two years ago. Its lead-in will be another female-centric comedy, "Whitney" starring Whitney Cummings.

"The Thursday 10 o'clock drama has been a classic on NBC for decades," Greenblatt said, adding that local stations had wanted a return to that format as a lead-in for their local late newscasts.

Watch a sneak preview of NBC cop drama 'Prime Suspect' with Maria Bello

Greenblatt and his team decided to save "Smash"-- a much-anticipated Broadway drama a la "Glee" starring Katharine McPhee of "American Idol" and produced by Steven Spielberg -- for midseason, where it will be paired Mondays with "The Voice," the singing contest that has earned big ratings this spring.

" 'The Voice' we think is the real deal, and we wanted to do everything possible to not only protect it but to build it," Greenblatt said, noting that the first season will wind down in June. "The idea of having it back on the air in September seemed a little bit rushed."

In the meantime, NBC will use "The Sing-Off," another singing contest, for Mondays through the fall. It will be followed by "The Playboy Club," a music-laced drama set in the famous nightclub chain during the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the returning spy caper "Chuck" narrowly avoided the chopping block again and will head to Fridays, while "Harry's Law," another female-targeted crime drama, with Kathy Bates as a tough lawyer, will occupy an unusual 9 p.m. Wednesday slot after the new sitcom block.

The complete fall schedule follows:


*New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET


8-10 p.m. – "The Sing-Off"

10-11 p.m. – "THE PLAYBOY CLUB"


8-10 p.m. – "The Biggest Loser"

10-11 p.m. – "Parenthood"


8-8:30 p.m. – "UP ALL NIGHT"

8:30-9 p.m. – "FREE AGENTS"

9-10 p.m. -- "Harry’s Law"

10-11 p.m. -- "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"


8-8:30 p.m. – "Community"

8:30-9 p.m. -- "Parks and Recreation"

9-9:30 p.m. – "The Office"

9:30-10 p.m. – "WHITNEY"

10-11 p.m. – "PRIME SUSPECT"


8-9 p.m. – "Chuck"

9-10 p.m. – "GRIMM"

10-11 p.m. – "Dateline NBC"


Encore programming


7- 8:15 p.m. -- "Football Night in America"

8:15-11:30 p.m. -- "NBC Sunday Night Football"



*New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET



7-8 p.m. – "Dateline NBC"

8-10 p.m. – "The Celebrity Apprentice"

10-11 p.m. – "THE FIRM"


8-10 p.m. – "The Voice"

10-11 p.m. – "SMASH"


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-- Scott Collins (

Photo: Christina Applegate in the film "Hall Pass." Credit: Peter Iovino/New Line Cinema.