‘Heroes,’ ‘Chuck’ part of NBC’s time-share season

By Lynn Elber

LOS ANGELES — NBC is giving the equivalent of broadcast time-shares to “Heroes,” “Chuck” and some of its half-dozen new series.

Instead of airing throughout the 2009-10 season, designated shows will have their turn and then make way for the next wave, NBC said Tuesday in announcing its schedule. The network’s Winter Olympics broadcast will provide the midseason dividing line.

“Heroes,” for example, will start the season at 8 p.m. Monday, with “Chuck” taking over the time slot after the Winter Games. New medical series “Trauma” is to surrender the 9 p.m. Monday hour to fellow freshman drama “Day One.”

U.S. cable channels and foreign broadcasters have successfully used the approach of running a series straight through without reruns, giving viewers a steady stream of new fare, said Ben Silverman, co-chair of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.

A handful of network series, including Fox’s “24” and ABC’s “Lost,” have followed the pattern.

NBC is positioning itself as a “52-week-a-year programmer,” Silverman said, with the Olympics offering a strong launching pad to establish new midseason shows.

“Hopefully, it’s going to be a very strong year for us,” Silverman said of the network that is taking a big gamble on Jay Leno’s new daily prime-time series.

NBC needs a shock to the system: It’s been mired in fourth place with viewers and the advertiser-favored young adult demographic.

Off the schedule are “Medium,” “My Name Is Earl” and the game show “Deal or No Deal,” which saw its ratings shrink after a syndicated version launched.

They were cut to make room for newcomers that reflect NBC’s commitment to quality scripted series, said Angela Bromstad, prime-time entertainment president for NBC and Universal Media Studios.

“We’re feeling good about our development for the first time in awhile and wanting to give the audience some fresh programs,” she said.

The fall schedule will include the return of “Law & Order” for its 20th season, which will tie it with “Gunsmoke” as TV’s longest-running prime-time drama.

NBC had previously announced that sister show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” will return this fall, although contract negotiations with stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni had yet to be resolved.

The drama will move to 9 p.m. Wednesday as Leno’s new venture claims its 10 p.m. spot.

Fall debuts include “Parenthood,” produced by Ron Howard and based on the 1989 movie he directed. The family drama, starring Peter Krause, Maura Tierney and Craig T. Nelson, will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday, with new hospital drama “Mercy” set to claim the slot midseason.

Thursday, billed by NBC as its “marquee comedy night,” will start off with the “Saturday Night Live” fake newscast “Weekend Update,” followed by the Amy Poehler mockumentary “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office” and the new Chevy Chase comedy “Community.”

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