Seeking comeback, NBC bets big on laughs

NBC ordered only 13 episodes of “30 Rock,” starring Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, for next season.

NEW YORK — Hoping to lure viewers with laughs, struggling NBC is calling on old friend Matthew Perry.

The TV network unveiled a fall schedule Sunday that has 10 sitcoms, double the number of dramas it will air. Comedy is being added to Tuesday and Friday nights. All the low-rated but critically acclaimed Thursday comedies earned renewals, although “Community” will move to Fridays.

Four comedies are new, including “Go On,” with ex-“Friends” star Perry as a fast-talking, sarcastic sportscaster who loses his wife in a car accident.

“It is heavy on comedy,” said Robert Greenblatt, NBC entertainment president. “It was a conscious decision we made … at the beginning of the development season. The audience is really open to comedy right now.”

NBC is finding a new generation of fans discovering Perry’s Chandler character through “Friends” reruns, and that contributed to “Go On” having broad appeal in audience testing, Greenblatt said. NBC gave the comedy one of its few plum time slots, after “The Voice” on Tuesdays.

Fourth place NBC is in a prolonged slump. Its prime-time viewership was up slightly this year, but only because NBC telecast the Super Bowl. Take that game out, and viewership was down 3 percent, according to the Nielsen company. Sunday night football is NBC’s most popular programming.

Among the shows canceled by NBC are “Harry’s Law,” “Awake,” “Are You There, Chelsea?” and “Bent.”

One show on the bubble was Brian Williams’ newsmagazine, “Rock Center,” but it is on the fall schedule for 10 p.m. Thursdays. Greenblatt said its ratings are not what NBC hoped but that such shows take time to catch on.

“Smash” was renewed, although the series about putting on a Broadway production will be back in midseason. “The Voice” currently airs two nights a week toward the end of the singing competition; starting in fall, it will air two nights throughout each run.

Two Thursday comedies, “30 Rock” and “Community,” have orders of only 13 episodes next season, often a sign executives are hedging their bets. “The Office” and “Parks & Recreation” have full-season orders. Despite reports that some of the shows were told this will be their last season, Greenblatt said they could stay if ratings improve. Also, Betty White’s “Off Their Rockers” candid camera show will return midseason.

Other new NBC shows this fall are:

“The New Normal,” about a gay couple that invites a surrogate mother into their home as they try to have a baby.

“Animal Practice,” a comedy about a veterinarian who learns his ex-lover is taking over his business.

“Guys With Kids,” a comedy executive produced by Jimmy Fallon, about three guys in their 30s trying to hold on to youth despite being new fathers.

“Revolution,” a J.J. Abrams action series where the world is plunged into a time when electricity doesn’t work.

“Chicago Fire,” a drama about a fire rescue unit from “Law & Order” executive producer Dick Wolf.