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Chicago-set rom-com a promising addition to NBC’s new line up
The creator of the gone-too-soon ABC sitcom “Happy Endings” is bringing his brand of funny back to television this fall. This time, on NBC.
Glencoe native David Caspe’s new rom-com, “Marry Me,” snagged a sweet launch pad in NBC’s fall line-up, airing after the popular singing competition, “The Voice,” on Tuesdays.
“Marry Me” packs a one-two punch with the talented duo of Ken Marino (“Childrens Hospital,” “Eastbound & Down”) and Caspe’s real-life fiancee, Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings,” “SNL”). They star as Jake and Annie, a cute, nacho-loving couple destined for marriage until Jake’s attempt to put a ring on it backfires in the worst — and funniest — way.
Like “Happy Endings,” the series will be set in Chicago but not filmed here.
“Almost anything I write — movie or TV — I always set it in Chicago with some weird hope that it will take me back there,” Caspe told me during a television critics meeting in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Wilson, a master of physical comedy with impeccable timing, is a big reason “Marry Me” is shaping up to be the most promising of NBC’s three new fall comedies. That list includes another relationship sitcom, “A to Z,” with Ben Feldman (“Mad Men”) and Cristin Milioti (“How I Met Your Mother”) as well as “Bad Judge,” starring Kate Walsh (“Private Practice,” “Fargo”) in the titular role.
On the drama side of the mask, NBC will add a trio of newcomers this fall. “State of Affairs” is a “Homeland”-looking political thriller with Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”), while “Constantine” is part of the comic book craze fueling four — count ’em, four — new DC Comics series headed to broadcast TV.
NBC also plans to launch Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”) in a dubious looking cop drama whose sizzle reel mined school massacres for a laugh. We’ll see if that scene makes the cut in the final version.
The network unveiled its primetime programming plans Monday in New York during the broadcast industry’s annual “upfronts,” when advertisers are courted to buy commercial airtime months before the new TV season begins.
At this year’s event, NBC found itself in the unusual position of being proud as the peacock that’s its mascot. The network has gone from worst (or close to it) to first among the Big Four broadcasters in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic — bragging rights it hasn’t had for a decade. It’s also a feat NBC would have pulled off even without this winter’s eyeball magnet, the Sochi Olympics. (In total viewers, NBC is up 35 percent to 9.4 million versus a year ago, putting it in second place behind the long-dominant CBS.)
Sunday Night Football, “The Voice” and “The Blacklist” — the No. 1 freshman hit of the current season — all helped propel NBC’s numbers north. Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt also praised the ratings performances of “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and the long-running “Law & Order: SVU,” which will all stay put in their Tuesday and Wednesday timeslots.
“Dick Wolf is the gift that just keeps on giving,” Greenblatt said about the veteran producer’s hat trick of hits.
Still smarting from a few high-profile fails on what used to be “must see TV” Thursdays, NBC will cut its two-hour comedy block in half. The female-skewing “A to Z” and “Bad Judge” are an attempt to lure women viewers away from CBS’ Thursday night football this fall. When the football season is over, NBC will move “The Blacklist” from Mondays to Thursdays.
“This is the one seismic shift of our schedule next year and it should do a critical thing for us: Put us back in business on Thursday nights,” Greenblatt said.
“The Blacklist” will air this fall until Nov. 17, when the new “State of Affairs” slips into its Monday spot. The James Spader drama will return with a two-part episode that kicks off in the plum post-Super Bowl slot Feb. 1 before moving to its new home on Thursdays later that week.
Greenblatt also is betting big on the live musical, an experiment that paid off with massive ratings last December for “The Sound of Music.” The net will launch “Peter Pan” Dec. 4 and “The Music Man” at a later date.
“We’re going to make an annual tradition out of the live musical,” said Greenblatt, noting that Fox, which also made its upfront presentation Monday, plans to put on a three-hour live version of “Grease.” “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
— Lori Rackl, TV Critic