May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Comcast Corp.’s NBC is going back to the future to refresh its Thursday night lineup, anchored by a new comedy starring Michael J. Fox.
“The Michael J. Fox Show” will debut at 9:30 p.m. New York time on Thursdays when the season begins in September, NBC said yesterday in a statement. The family comedy stars Fox as a former New York news anchor who returns to work after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
NBC is trying to tap into its former Thursday “Must See TV” glory by building a new comedy lineup after this year’s series finales of “30 Rock” and “The Office.” Leaning on Fox’s popularity should give NBC a head start, although keeping audiences interested isn’t a guarantee, Gavin Polone, a film and television producer, said in an interview.
“The first episode is going to draw a huge audience,” said Polone, executive producer of “Twisted,” which debuts on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC Family next month. “How many people come back for the second or third episode will be key.”
Fox, who starred on NBC in the 1980s as Alex P. Keaton in “Family Ties” and in the 1985 time-travel film “Back to the Future,” hasn’t been a TV regular since leaving ABC’s “Spin City” in 2001.
NBC, based in New York, is adding two other comedies in September, “Welcome to the Family” and “Sean Saves the World,” which features another returning actor from NBC’s glory days -- Sean P. Hayes, who played bawdy Jack McFarland on “Will & Grace.” NBC’s midseason comedy additions will be “The Family Guide” and “About a Boy.”
New dramas include “The Blacklist,” “Ironside” and “Dracula” in September, with “Believe,” “Crisis” and “Crossbones” coming later in the season. The network announced last month it renewed dramas “Revolution,” “Chicago Fire,” “Parenthood,” “Grimm,” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for 22-episode seasons. It canceled newsmagazine “Rock Center” and comedy “Go On,” starring Matthew Perry.
NBC is still trying to establish an identity, years after its “Must See TV” shows including “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “ER” have gone off the air, Polone said.
“I’m still not sure what defines an NBC show,” Polone said. “‘Smash’ and ‘Revolution’ are so different,’’ he said, referring to the musical drama and the science-fiction program. “Smash” wasn’t renewed.
NBC is the last-place network of the four largest broadcasters this season among all audiences and is in third place behind CBS and Fox among 18-to-49 year olds, according to Nielsen Holdings NV data from May 5.
NBC’s average prime-time audience has fallen 6.1 percent from a year ago to 6.98 million. Among viewers 18 to 49, it is down 6.6 percent to 2.99 million.
The network is also making changes in its late-night lineup to lure younger viewers. Seth Meyers will host a show at the 12:35 a.m. slot currently occupied by Jimmy Fallon, said Rich Licata, a NBC spokesman. Fallon is scheduled to become the new host of “The Tonight Show” next year as Jay Leno steps aside.
Ad spending on network television is projected to decline 2 percent this year to $16.9 billion, and total TV advertising, including cable networks, will increase 2.8 percent to $63.9 billion, slowing from 7.1 percent in 2012, according to ZenithOptimedia, Publicis Groupe SA’s research division.
News Corp.’s Fox will present its TV lineup today at 4 p.m. in New York. ABC and CBS Corp. unveil their schedules later this week.
*T NBC FALL 2013 SCHEDULE (New programs in UPPER CASE; all times New York time)
MONDAY 8-10 p.m. - “The Voice” 10-11 p.m. - “THE BLACKLIST”
TUESDAY 8-9 p.m. - “The Biggest Loser” 9-10 p.m. - “The Voice” 10-11 p.m. - “Chicago Fire”
WEDNESDAY 8-9 p.m. - “Revolution” 9-10 p.m. - “Law & Order: SVU” 10-11 p.m. - “IRONSIDE”
THURSDAY 8-8:30 p.m. - “Parks and Recreation” 8:30-9 p.m. - “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY” 9-9:30 p.m. - “SEAN SAVES THE WORLD” 9:30-10 p.m. - “THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW” 10-11 p.m. - “Parenthood”
FRIDAY 8-9 p.m. - “Dateline NBC” 9-10 p.m. - “Grimm” 10-11 p.m. - “DRACULA”
SATURDAY Encore programming
SUNDAY 7-8:15 p.m. - “Football Night in America” 8:15-11:30 p.m. - “NBC Sunday Night Football”
To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Sherman in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at email@example.com To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org