NBC Unveils New Schedule

Anxious to create a new franchise comedy with Friends entering its last season, NBC is pinning its Thursday night hopes on Scrubs and a new series about a morning TV show in Miami.

Two dramas thought to be on the fence for return Providence and Ed both received renewals as NBC announced its fall schedule on Monday.

All seven broadcast networks unveil their schedules this week in glitzy presentations to advertisers, igniting a multi-billion-dollar commercial buying frenzy known as the "upfront."

NBC enters the week in the best shape of all. It will be the No. 1 network in prime-time when the current season ends next week. Unlike CBS, ABC and Fox, NBC's ratings have gone up since last year.

NBC is introducing only five new shows in the fall, and is leaving its Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday schedules unchanged.

"The key for us is tremendous stability," said NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker. "We had such success this season that we had the luxury of having very few holes on our schedule."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus' comedy, Watching Ellie, is absent from the schedule, although Zucker said the Seinfeld alum's series will be back in midseason. The game show Weakest Link and comedy Leap of Faith were shelved.

After years of failing to establish a new comedy at 8:30 p.m. Thursday after Friends, NBC is moving the second-year farce about medical residents, Scrubs, into that time slot.

An hour later, NBC will displace Just Shoot Me (it's moving to Tuesdays), and launch Good Morning Miami. The comedy about a Harvard-educated producer trying to turn around a morning show was put on the schedule by Zucker, the Harvard-educated former Today show producer.

NBC has dominated Thursday night for years, but CBS now gives it a battle with Survivor and the still-growing CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Even though its producers said Friends is definitely calling it quits next year, Zucker isn't ready to give up. "I'll always hold out some hope," he said.

NBC is introducing two new comedies on Tuesday nights and two new dramas on Sunday, including the Philadelphia-based American Dreams, focusing on two teen-age girls who realize their dreams of becoming dancers on American Bandstand.

NBC's other new shows:

--Hidden Hills, a Tuesday night comedy about two couples that will focus on the "wild, sexy and funny" side of the suburbs.

--In-Laws, another Tuesday night comedy starring Jean Smart as a mother whose daughter and son-in-law move in. Frasier star Kelsey Grammer is the executive producer.

--Boomtown, an ensemble crime drama about Los Angeles produced by a team with the movies Speed and Fried Green Tomatoes on their resumes.

NBC also gave a green light to three midseason series, including Kingpin, a drama about a family-run drug cartel.