NBC, which barely held onto the No. 1 spot in the ratings race this past season and has lost millions of viewers in the past few years, played it surprisingly safe when announcing its new primetime schedule for this fall.
The network will add nine new shows - two dramas, six comedies and a "fantasy-adventure." NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield used words like "unique" and "innovative" to describe his new offerings.But at first glance most appear to be little more than rehashes of successful old formulas. Old stars (including James Garner and Robert Guillaume) are back. Successful producers try to recreate those successes.
Not surprisingly, NBC's two weakest night - Sundays and Fridays - came in for the biggest changes. And the Peacock has tried to spread some of its successful shows around to help its new offerings.
But with the exception of a couple of shows on Sunday night ("The Adventures of Mark and Brian" and "Eerie, Indiana" - both of which are extreme longshots), NBC has taken few chances and almost stood pat with its decreasingly successful schedule.
Among the shows getting the ax from the Peacock are "American Dreamer," "Amen," "Carol and Co.," "Dark Shadows," "Down Home," "The Fanelli Brothers," "Hunter" and "Midnight Caller."
"Matlock" isn't on the fall schedule but will return sometime later in the season.
Here's a brief look at NBC's new shows:
The Adventures of Mark and Brian (Sundays, 7 p.m.): "Irreverent" L.A. disc jockeys Brian Phelps and Mark Thompson star in this "reality-based" show that "takes them on adventures to fulfill lifelong daredevil dreams - including `bungee-jumping' from a hot-air balloon, singing and dancing with The Temptations, and training at NASA to be the first people to broadcast on television while bouncing around at zero gravity."
Eerie, Indiana (Sundays, 6:30 p.m.): Omri Katz, who was young John Ross Ewing on "Dallas," is a wildly imaginative 13-year-old who imagines all kinds of horrible goings on after moving to a small town from New York City.
Flesh 'n' Blood (Fridays, 8:30 p.m.): From the producers of "Cheers," this is the story of a young, female assistant district attorney (Lisa Darr) who's on the fast track to success - when suddenly her life is upset by the arrival of a con man (David Keith) who claims to be her brother. And has an 11-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son in tow.
I'll Fly Away (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.): Set in the later 1950s, Sam Waterston stars as a prosecuting attorney ina small Southern City adjusting to the changing times along with his three children and their black housekeeper. From the producers of "St. Elsewhere," "A Year In the Life" and "Northern Exposure."
Man of the People (Sundays, 7 p.m.): James Garner stars as Jim Doyle, a con artist who's appointed to the city council to replace his late ex-wife. Co-starring are Kate Mulgrew, Kathleen Quinlan and George Wyner.
Nurses (Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.): Susan Harris, who created "Soap," "The Golden Girls" and "Empty Nest," cooked up this sitcom about four female and one male nurse "who face their professional lives with lighthearted camaraderie, though they're overworked, underpaid and often unappreciated."
Pacific Station (Sundays, 7:30 p.m.): Robert Guillaume ("Soap," "Benson") is as veteran detective whose beat is the "eccentric beach community of Venice, Calif." He's got a new partner (Richard Caparelli of "The Fanelli Boys") who just returned from psychiatric leave, and an unqualified new captain (Joel Murray). Produced by the former producers of "The Golden Girls" and "The Fanelli Boys."
Reasonable Doubts (Fridays, 9 p.m.): Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin ("Children of a Lesser God") is a hearing-imparied assistant district attorney and Mark Harmon is a hard-headed police detective "brought together by their mutual desire to fight injustice."
The Torkelsons (Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.): Dorothy Torkelson (Olivia Burnette) is a 14-year-old who's more or less horrified by her family, which includes her cash-poor single mother, two brothers and two sisters. It's from the folks who've brought us "Dinosaurs," "Charles In Charge," "Carol and Co." and "My Two Dads."
NBC's 1991 FALL SCHEDULE (with new shows in bold italics):
Sunday: 6 p.m., "The Adventures of Mark and Brian"; 6:30 p.m., Eerie, Indiana"; 7 p.m., "Man of the People"; 7:30 p.m., "Pacific Station"; 8 p.m., "NBC Sunday Night Movie."
Monday: 7 p.m., "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"; 7:30 p.m., "Blossom"; 8 p.m., "NBC Monday Night Movie."
Tuesday: 7 p.m., "I'll Fly Away"; 8 p.m., "In the Heat of the Night"; 9 p.m., "Law & Order."
Wednesday: 7 p.m., "Unsolved Mysteries"; 8 p.m., "Night Court"; 8:30 p.m., "Seinfeld"; 9 p.m., "Quantum Leap."
Thursday: 7 p.m., "Cosby"; 7:30 p.m., "A Different World"; 8 p.m., "Cheers"; 8:30 p.m., "Wings"; 9 p.m., "L.A. Law."
Friday: 7 p.m., "Real Life with Jane Pauley"; 7:30 p.m., "Expose"; 8 p.m., "Dear John"; 8:30 p.m., "Flesh 'n' Blood"; 9 p.m., "Reasonable Doubts."
Saturday: 7 p.m., "The Golden Girls"; 7:30 p.m., "The Torkelsons"; 8 p.m., "Empty Nest"; 8:30 p.m., "Nurses"; 9 p.m., "Sisters."