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NBC Adding 3 New Dramas, 3 New Comedies

May 12, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ With the days of ``Friends″ and ``Frasier″ numbered, NBC is turning to Whoopi Goldberg, John Larroquette, and a racy British import next fall in an effort to develop new comedies.

Three new dramas, including one starring ``The West Wing″ refugee Rob Lowe, will also be on the schedule, NBC announced Monday. It was the first of seven broadcast networks to present its fall schedule to advertisers.

NBC will probably end the season as the second most popular network behind CBS, which is first among the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic. But its most popular comedy, ``Friends,″ is going into its last season. Another durable comedy, ``Frasier,″ has falling ratings. NBC’s batting average for new comedies has been poor recently.

``Obviously, finding comedy success is critical,″ said NBC entertainment president Jeff Zucker.

In Goldberg’s new show, ``Whoopi,″ she’s an ex-singer running her own hotel in New York City. ``Happy Family″ has ex-``Night Court″ star Larroquette and Christine Baranski as a couple whose children move back home after college.

Both will air before the fading ``Frasier″ on Tuesday. NBC is also switching the sophomore-year comedy ``Good Morning, Miami″ and the hit drama ``Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit″ to Tuesday.

``Perhaps the biggest goal is to fix Tuesday night,″ Zucker said.

``Couplings,″ an American version of a hit British comedy, will get the valuable Thursday 9:30 p.m. time slot. An obvious cousin of ``Friends″ but decidedly more raunchy, Zucker said it needed to be shown when children should be asleep.

He called the cast ``the hottest sextet to hit American television in a decade.″ NBC has already recast the show after one try didn’t work.

NBC is canceling the comedies ``Just Shoot Me″ and ``Watching Ellie,″ and won’t bring back the mob drama ``Kingpin.″ ``Crossing Jordan″ is off the schedule until next winter because star Jill Hennessy is pregnant.

The long-running newsmagazine ``Dateline NBC″ has been cut from three to two airings per week, losing its Tuesday berth. The show is searching for a replacement for retiring co-anchor Jane Pauley.

Lowe, who left ``The West Wing″ this season in a contract dispute, lands quickly on his feet with ``The Lyon’s Den.″ He’ll star in the Sunday night drama as a maverick Washington lawyer from a well-connected political family.

NBC also announced that it has extended its deal with Warner Brothers Television to keep ``ER″ on the air for at least three more seasons.

Two dramas thought to be on the bubble for returning, ``Ed″ and ``Boomtown,″ will both be on the schedule. Vanessa Williams will join the cast of ``Boomtown.″

NBC also ordered a comedy series starring ``Saturday Night Live″ cast member Tracy Morgan to start in midseason. That means Morgan will leave the late-night sketch comedy.

NBC’s other new series:

_``Las Vegas,″ a drama that stars veteran actor James Caan leading a surveillance team in charge of security at a casino.

_``Miss Match,″ a lighthearted drama based on a real-life Manhattan woman who’s a divorce attorney by day and a high-priced matchmaker at night. Alicia Silverstone stars.

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