Acknowledging that there is no yesterday on a network calendar, NBC executives Monday announced a fall schedule that was missing such familiar names as “Scrubs” and “Fear Factor” and even one of the “Law & Orders.”

The network that laughed all the way to the bank throughout the 1980s and “90s will have just one new comedy this fall: “My Name Is Earl,” about a schlub whose life changes overnight when he wins the lottery. Earl is played by Jason Lee, who is known mainly for his roles in Kevin Smith’s movies.

In a similar vein, another new show is “Three Wishes,” in which pop singer Amy Grant makes down-on-their-luck Americans’ dreams come true. NBC tried something like this last season with its daytime show “Home Delivery,” which failed to catch on.

The rest of NBC’s fall lineup will feature a Martha Stewart version of “The Apprentice” on Wednesday nights, complementing the Donald Trump edition on Thursdays, and three new dramas:

“Inconceivable,” the best-named show since “Desperate Housewives,” follows the high-stakes stories inside a fertility clinic.

“E-Ring,” starring Dennis Hopper and “Law & Order” alumnus Benjamin Bratt, is being called a “West Wing” of the Pentagon. It’s from “CSI” creator Jerry Bruckheimer and “Amazing Race” producer Jonathan Littman.

“Fathom,” about a seemingly innocuous sea creature that begins to appear on Earth, takes the place of “Fear Factor,” which will return later, probably in another time period.

Gone for good are “The Contender,” “Third Watch,” “American Dreams” and, in a stunner, “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.” NBC entertainment chief Kevin Reilly justified the quick hook for “Trial by Jury” as the unfortunate result of being a fourth-place network in a rebuilding mode. He did, however, also use the phrase “long in the tooth” to describe the look and feel of the fourth “L&O.”

Ratings are down on other versions of “L&O” as well, and “Trial by Jury,” which lasted just 13 episodes, suffered a big blow when star Jerry Orbach died in December.

Reilly called the “Dreams” cancellation frustrating, since Americans say they’d like to see more family dramas on TV, but “what they really want to watch is shows like “Desperate Housewives.”‘

NBC was expected to make big moves. Its one-season tumble from first to worst among the four major networks was unprecedented, and president Jeff Zucker hasn’t tried to spin it much in recent interviews. “It was a difficult year,” he told the New York Times last week, “so now we have to do a better job.”

Still, NBC’s moves were surprising, not only for what was done but what wasn’t. “Joey,” which took the network to new ratings lows in its Thursday-night time period, will stay put. But “Scrubs” will go on hiatus.

Reilly explained that since the network is in a rebuilding mode, it was important to keep some nights, in this case Thursdays, intact while blowing up other nights, like Tuesdays.

Assuming NBC doesn’t change its mind again, and Reilly promised “nothing is beyond review,” “Scrubs” and “Fear Factor” will be plugged back into the schedule during the season.

There was also a sense that “Fear Factor” was hurting NBC’s image.

“We think we can upgrade the audience with “Fathom,’ ” said Reilly.



As NBC dithered with its fall lineup until the last hour, Fox and ABC moved with uncharacteristic dispatch in firming up their schedules, which won’t be announced until later this week.

As I predicted in this space Saturday, “Arrested Development” was picked up for a third season by Fox, as was “The Bernie Mac Show.” ABC picked up comedies “Jake in Progress” and “Less Than Perfect” but will apparently drop “My Wife and Kids.” And the WB came to terms with the producers of its most popular comedy, “Reba,” after acrimonious talks that had threatened the show’s future.


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