LOS ANGELES--Check the rearview mirror, eye. Get crazy, Fox. Spell relief, alphabet. The peacock is mounting an attack.
NBC president Kevin Reilly, speaking today at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, California, said his network won't end next season bringing up the rear.
"We've been sweating like pigs trying to get out of a stiff headwind," Reilly said. "But I gotta tell you: I feel a shift in the winds coming, and I think our ill-fated three-hour tour is about to come to an end."
NBC, once the home of "must-see TV" and perennial number one network, has suffered a severe downturn in its fortunes since the 2003-2004 season, when Friends went off the air. Since then, the net has fallen to fourth place and has seen its ad revenue, which stood at $2.9 billion, dip to $1.9 billion in each of the past two years.
Reilly says that's going to change.
"Our fall is going to look pretty potent. We have six new shows that all could break out. Our ratings will definitely be better," he predicted. "We will not be mired in fourth week after week. We will be a challenger in many time periods."
Reilly hinted that stalwart sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, which saw ratings slump this season, might get some revamping.
"You'll see a tightening of the cast," he suggested. "[It will] a be new show for a new generation."
NBC has two new shows parodying SNL--Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, and 30 Rock, from SNL writer Tina Fey. Sorkin, speaking separately at the TCA, said his show would differ from Fey's.
"I'm going to take Tina's idea and add twice as many words to it," he said to laughter.
Sorkin, who in 2001 pled guilty to possession of crack cocaine and other drugs, cracked wise about his feelings on TV's unhealthy influence in society.
"I think it's [like] bad crack in the school yard," he quipped. "Why did I use that line?"
NBC's schedule follows; new shows are in caps, aside from ER.
Deal or No Deal (special two-hour edition, 8-10 p.m.)
STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (10-11 p.m.)
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (9-10 p.m.)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (10-11 p.m.)
The Biggest Loser (8-10 p.m.)
KIDNAPPED (10-11 p.m.)
My Name Is Earl (8-8:30 p.m.)
The Office (8:30-9 p.m.)
Deal or No Deal (9-10 p.m.)
ER (10-11 p.m.)
Law & Order (10-11 p.m.)
HEROES (9-10 p.m.)
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (8-9 p.m.)
TWENTY GOOD YEARS (8-8:30 p.m. and 8:30-9 p.m.)
30 ROCK (8:30-9 p.m.)
Crossing Jordan (8-9 p.m.)
Las Vegas (9-10 p.m.)