Your guide to new Fall TV shows (part 2)

— Broadcasters may need a laugh but they're not searching for comfort in comedy this fall. A paltry seven new sitcoms will debut, making an already drama-heavy schedule even more so. All told, the six networks will field up to 49 dramas by the first quarter of 2005, compared with some 37 comedies.

For the first time in two decades, NBC won't have four sitcoms on Thursday night. It will have "Joey," the "Friends" spinoff starring Matt LeBlanc and one of the season's high-profile newcomers.

Another season hallmark is the sizable number of new reality shows -- six -- and their introduction at the season's start. This year, they're not second-string substitutes for failed dramas and sitcoms.

The upcoming season's new series, network by network:

NBC

  • The one-time Tuesday-Thursday night comedy powerhouse hopes the loss of "Friends" and "Frasier" will be eased by two comedies, including the "Joey" spinoff and a high-risk animation venture, three dramas and a reality series, "The Contender," which was announced first but gets into the ring after Fox's entry.
  • Book 'em, Seano. The crime drama "Hawaii," 7 p.m. Wednesday, stars Michael Biehn as Detective Sean Harrison. Sharif Atkins and Eric Balfour co-star with palm trees and bikinis.
  • "Father of the Pride" is a comedy with claws, a DreamWorks Animation ("Shrek") production about the on and offstage life of Siegfried & Roy's Las Vegas tigers. The show, created before Roy Horn's onstage mauling, debuts 8 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood play ambitious rivals in "LAX," 9 p.m. Sept. 6, about those who run Los Angeles' airport and the travelers, pets and luggage just passing through.
  • Matt LeBlanc trades his "Friends" in for family on "Joey," the spinoff in which he leaves Manhattan for Hollywood and bonds with his sister (Drea de Matteo) and nephew. It debuts 7 p.m. Sept. 9.
  • National Institutes of Health doctors (Neal McDonough, Kelli Williams) are the heroes in "Medical Investigation," debuting 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, and in its regular 9 p.m. Friday slot Sept. 10.
  • In this corner "The Contender," produced by reality mogul Mark Burnett, Sylvester "Rocky" Stallone and DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg. Boxing hopefuls battle for $1 million. The November debut date for the 7 p.m. Tuesday show was unannounced.

UPN

  • Once known primarily as the home of wrestling and "Star Trek," UPN continues its move toward more mainstream programming with two new dramas and a comedy. The challenge is to attract younger viewers to its version of traditional genres.
  • "Veronica Mars" (Kristen Bell) is an intrepid detective willing to tackle the powerful interests in her wealthy town -- and she's only 17. After an 8 p.m. Sept. 22 preview, the series moves into its regular 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, slot.
  • Taye Diggs stars in "Kevin Hill" as a high-powered, sexy attorney who finds fatherhood changes everything after a family death leaves him in charge of a baby girl. Debuts 8 p.m. Sept. 29.
  • "Second Time Around," 8:30 p.m. Sept. 20, stars real-life couple Nicole Parker and Boris Kodjoe as an artist and an architect who were married, divorced and, eyes wide open, try marriage again.

WB

Last season's ratings dip prompted an overhaul of Wednesday and Friday nights and a stab at reality with "Studio 7." But young-skewing WB's emphasis on drama remains, with nearly half the schedule devoted to hourlong series, including two newcomers.

  • The roots of greatness are explored in "Jack & Bobby," about a future American president's childhood and the brother who influenced him. Christine Lahti co-stars in the drama starting 8 p.m. Sept. 12.
  • Improv is the game and Drew Carey is the name in "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show," 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16. After Carey and 10 comics act out the audience's skit ideas, artists fill an empty "green screen" background with animation, photos and film clips. Kathy Kinney is among the merrymakers.
  • It takes a baby sitter with military training to handle three rich kids in Beverly Hills in "Commando Nanny," 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17, based on reality czar Mark Burnett's own experience. Gerald McRaney stars.
  • It's the Carvers' world and everyone else is just living in it in "The Mountain," 7 p.m. Sept. 22, a drama set in the plush ski resort and town the family founded. Barbara Hershey and Oliver Hudson star.

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