NEW YORK—"Friday Night Lights" is coming back, "The Office" is spinning off and NBC is going to try to have mostly original programming all year round.
Those are some of the highlights from what NBC is calling its "in front" (rather than upfront) schedule announcement for 2008-09 on Wednesday. And what it may have lacked in the glitz and star power of a typical upfront presentation, it made up for in sheer volume of information.
The network announced its schedule -- several different ones, in fact -- for the coming season, with four new series (dramas "Knight Rider," "Crusoe" and "My Own Worst Enemy" and comedy "Kath & Kim") set to go for the fall and another four, including a top-secret spinoff of "The Office," for the winter and spring of 2009.
Additionally, critical darling "Friday Night Lights" is coming back for a third season thanks to a partnership with satellite service DirecTV. Fellow bubble show "Lipstick Jungle" is also returning, while "Scrubs" will be free to go elsewhere (like ABC).
"These are shows I've been waiting my entire career to put on air," NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman said at a news conference at the network's headquarters in New York.
The fall schedule won't look that much different than the fall schedule NBC trotted out this year, with "Heroes" returning to anchor Mondays at 9, a comedy block leading into "ER" on Thursdays and "Sunday Night Football" closing out the week. Freshman series "Chuck," "Life" and "Lipstick Jungle" -- which Silverman said got a renewal based on its strength among young women and upscale viewers, even though overall ratings were mediocre -- will also be back.
"My Own Worst Enemy," which stars Christian Slater (in his first series role) in a Jekyll-and-Hyde story about a suburban father/high-level spy, will get the post-"Heroes" timeslot on Monday nights in the fall. "Kath & Kim," an adaptation of the Australian hit that stars Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, will be sandwiched between "The Biggest Loser" and "Law & Order: SVU" on Tuesdays. "Knight Rider" will air Wednesdays at 8, and the adventure "Crusoe," based on Daniel Defoe's classic novel, goes in the 8 p.m. Friday spot.
As it did last year, "The Office" will begin its season with a handful of hour-long episodes before being paired with a series of "Saturday Night Live" prime-time election specials in October.
Come January, "American Gladiators" and "Deal or No Deal" will spell "Chuck" and "Heroes" on Monday nights, allowing the latter two shows to return for longer runs of original episodes later in 2009. The Tom Fontana-Barry Levinson drama "The Philanthropist" will take the 10 p.m. Monday spot later in the season, while another pair of new dramas, "Merlin" and "Kings," will bookend the returning "Medium" on Sunday nights.
Also at midseason, "Friday Night Lights" will return to NBC (although it will air on DirecTV in the fall), and the "Office" spinoff will launch with a post-Super Bowl premiere. "Law & Order" will take over for "Lipstick Jungle" at 10 p.m. Wednesday nights.
NBC has even gone so far as to lay out its schedule for summer 2009, promising Canadian drama "The Listener," cooking competition "The Chopping Block" and a pair of shows from the producer of "Ice Road Truckers" for 14 months or so from now.
"Scrubs," meanwhile, will end its seven-season run on NBC in May. ABC is in serious talks to pick the show up for another season, however.