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NBC adding two comedies, three dramas

NBC was the first broadcast network to announce its fall schedule.
/ Source: The Associated Press

After losing two of its signature comedies, NBC will add five new series in the fall, casting Heather Locklear as an airport chief and bringing a crime drama back to the 50th state.

Locklear stars with Blair Underwood in “LAX,” while “Hawaii” recalls the long-running series “Hawaii Five-O,” which ran from 1968 to ’80, and “Magnum, P.I.,” from 1980 to ’88 (both on CBS).

NBC was the first of the broadcast networks to announce its schedule, part of a full week of such unveilings to advertisers, who are then expected to buy some $9 billion worth of commercial time. ABC and the WB are up Tuesday.

(MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)

NBC’s Tuesday night undergoes the biggest makeover, with the comedies “Whoopi” and “Happy Family” getting the ax.

Initially worried about the impact of losing two high-profile shows, NBC had a solid season and minted a new hit, “The Apprentice,” which will be back in another version in the fall.

“The bottom line is we are so much stronger than we expected to be at this point,” said Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group.

Zucker even promised that ratings will go up next season on Thursday nights, primarily because it will have many more new episodes of “The Apprentice” and more new episodes of “Joey” than “Friends” had last year.

As previously announced, Matt LeBlanc’s “Friends” spinoff, “Joey,” will take over his old show’s key time slot Thursday at 8 p.m. And the “Frasier” time slot at 9 p.m. Tuesday will be filled with an animated comedy, “Father of the Pride,” about the lions that perform in Siegfried and Roy’s Las Vegas show.

NBC said that it’s emphasizing a year-round schedule, with new original programming premiering throughout the season. Besides the traditional fall schedule announcement, NBC picked up seven additional new series that will come on at some point next season.

Some already have time slots: “Revelations,” a thriller starring Bill Pullman as a scientist worried about Armageddon, will fill in for “The West Wing” in midseason; and “The Contender,” Mark Burnett and Sylvester Stallone’s boxing reality series, will go up against “American Idol” on Tuesdays.

Where's Lennie?In something of a surprise, the anticipated third spinoff of “Law & Order” starring Jerry Orbach wasn’t included on the fall schedule.

NBC also announced that Dennis Farina will join the cast of “Law & Order”; that the comedy “Scrubs” has been renewed for two seasons; and that Carson Daly has signed up for three more years as host of “Last Call.”

Additional new shows ordered by NBC:

—”Medical Investigation,” a drama based on true stories about medical mysteries from the National Institutes of Health. It’s on the fall schedule for Friday.

—”Crazy for You,” a midseason comedy with Jennifer Finnigan (”Crossing Jordan”) and Josh Cooke as a mismatched romantic couple.

—”The Men’s Room,” a midseason comedy about three men — aged 22, 32 and 42 — trying to come to grips with life at different stages.

—”The Office,” an American remake of the popular British series, scheduled for midseason.