Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

My fantasy. Okay, here’s the premise. Beliefnet buys a TV network (in this case NBC which announces its fall schedule on Monday) and puts me in charge. Yes, it’s time to indulge my crazy hobby of assembling prime time schedules once again. I’m going to assume you know that premises of the established shows. New shows, primarily from the Deadline pilot list, are below. In keeping with the spirit of Beliefnet, I believe the program choices  contain both heart and inclusiveness.

New Shows (Comedy):
BRIGHT FUTURES (Single-Camera): Four roommates all stumbling through the transition from the clueless, immature twentysomethings they are now to the successful professionals they’re destined to be.

GUESS WHO DIED (Multi-Camera): A humorous and inspiring look at the shared joys and challenges we all experience at any stage of life. Based on Norman Lear’s personal experiences. With Hector Elizondo, Holland Taylor, Christopher Lloyd, Beth Lacke and Adrian Martinez. (Note: This pilot was shot as a single-camera comedy but I think it would actually work better as a broader multi-camera series.)

ABBY’S (Multi-Camera): Abby’s is an unlicensed bar in San Diego where the regulars enthusiastically enforce a unique set of rules that give them a sense of community and allow them to avoid the frustrating behavior found at other establishments. Natalie Morales stars.

LIKE FAMILY (Multi-Camera): Aubrey and Artie formed the tightest of sibling-like bonds growing up together in foster care but are discovering that such closeness makes adulthood even more complicated.

New Shows (Drama):
SO CLOSE:  At crossroads in their separate lives, hopeless romantics Riley & Kyle are close to settling for the wrong partner, unaware that they live only blocks apart and may be each other’s soul mates. (Note: This pilot was shot as a multi-camere sitcom but my gut tells me the largeness of the concept which involves following two people’s entirely separate lives would work better, in fact great, as an hour-long single-camera drama.)

THE VILLAGE: Despite difference in age, race, culture and lifestyle, the residents of a Manhattan apartment building find that the more their lives intertwine, the more complex and compelling their connections become, thus proving life’s challenges are better faced alongside family, even if it’s the one you make wherever you find it.

NEW AMSTERDAM: The new Bellevue Hospital director’s maverick approach disrupts the status quo while always prioritizing patient care. Located in Manhattan, Bellevue is the only hospital in the world that has the capability to treat ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers Island and the President of the United States all under one roof.

STRANGE CALLS (from 2015 pilot roster): An affable but down-on-his-luck young police officer who is transferred to a rural town where — with the help of a peculiar, elderly night watchman — he starts to realize the town has a bizarre supernatural underbelly. (Note: Originally as a half-hour singlle-cam comedy, I believe the concept best works as an hour-long dramedy.)

OUR HOUSE: A reboot of the almost-forgotten NBC family drama. Here’s the show’s original premise (as described by Wikipedia): After his son John dies, retired widower Gus Witherspoon (played by Wilford Brimley) invites his daughter-in-law Jessica ‘Jessie’ Witherspoon (played by Deidre Hall) and her three children to move to California to live with him until they can get back on their feet financially. Here’s how I’d reboot the show with a more multicultural bent.

MURDER, SHE WROTE TOO: In 2014, NBC was considering a reboot of Murder, She Wrote with Octavia Spencer as a hospital administrator and amateur detective/self-published mystery novelist. I think the concept of a reboot more closely tied to the original series (i.e. say Vanessa Hudgens as the neice of Jessica Fletcher (portrayed in the original series by Angela Lansbury) who, for inspiration as a budding mystery novelist, moves into her aunt’s old home in Cabot Cove, Maine. It would be great to run after the end of Sunday Night Football in the old 8:00 PM original Murder, She Wrote time slot.

THE GILDED AGE: From Julian Fellowed, the creator of Downton Abbey. Marian Brook is the wide-eyed young scion of a conservative family in 1880s New York City. He will embark on infiltrating the wealthy neighboring family dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish and available son Larry and his ambitious wife Bertha, whose “new money” is a barrier to acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Marian is about to experience a whole new world springing up right outside her front door.

PARADISE PICTURES (from NBC sister network USA’s 2015 pilot roster: A tweaked version of that pilot about the 1940’s movie businessy would focus on the largely untold stories of the black industry that created films by African-Americans for African-Americans.


Marketing: Resurrect the old NBC slogan “The Quality Shows on NBC” and actually program quality shows.

   8:00 – THE VOICE (FALL)/THE GOOD PLACE (8:00/Winter)/GOOD GIRLS (9:00/Winter)/THE VOICE (Spring)
Build off the strength of The Voice, using the winter hiatus for limited runs of two well-reviewed “bubble shows” that were on the borderline for renewal. Moving Chicago Fire to 10 PM on Mondays would both hold The Voice lead-in and provide a jumping off point for potential miniseries-like crossovers with NBC’s two other Dick Wolf-produced Chicago-base shows (which would stay in the current Tuesday and Wednesday 10 PM slots.

  8:00 – THE VOICE (Fall)/SO CLOSE (Winter)/THE VOICE (Spring)
Again building off The Voice, this time using its winter hiatus to introduce the original romantic dramedy So Close. Both The Voice and So Close would serve as compatible lead-ins for the single-cam comedies Superstore and Bright Futures which, in turn, flow seamlessly into Chicago Med.

  8:00 – THIS IS US
  9:00 – THE VILLAGE
10:00 – CHICAGO P.D.
No longer needing a Voice lead-in, the hit-in-its-own-right This is Us would lead-off Wednesday into the similarly-themed humane drama The Village

  8:30 – ABBY’S
  9:00 – WILL & GRACE
  9:30 – LIKE FAMILY
Swinging for the fences, Will & Grace would be used as the coat hanger for a night that would harken back to NBC’s glory Must-See-TV days of quality comedies and drama. I believe there’s at least one or two new hits among the four new series being introduced here.  use

8:00 – THE BLACKLIST (Fall)/TIMELESS (Winter)
9:00 – BLINDFOLD (Fall)/STRANGE CALLS (Winter)
10:00 – Law & Order: SVU
Strategy: It’s time to wrap-up The Blacklist and Blindfold with half-season orders that provide hypeable programming and satisfying conclusions to the two veteran series. I’d bring back Timeless at mid-season in the 8 PM time slot that family-friendly show cries out for while also leading into a compatible companion series. SVU would likely be reasonably solid at 10 PM.
With delayed viewing now so prevalent, it’s time to start programming Saturday nights again. This collection of NBC reality shows would be a good start. 

Sunday (Fall)
Sunday (Winter)
  7:00 – OUR HOUSE
   9:00 – THE GILDED AGE
Keeping Football in the fall is a no-brainer. Replacing it in the winter is the challenge. I believe the four shows  presented here are unique yet mainstream and capable of changing viewing habits.






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