NEW YORK -- NBC is betting on Aaron Sorkin's new tale of backstage intrigue at a TV comedy show and three new serialized dramas to lead the network out of a ratings slump caused by its inability to develop hits.
The network is revamping its Thursday night lineup, the linchpin of its ''must-see TV" golden years, and hopes Sunday night football will also add strength to the schedule.
NBC finished fourth for the first time in the ratings last year and is looking at a similar showing this season, with Howie Mandel's game show ''Deal or No Deal" the only notable new success. That game will be on the schedule twice next fall, Monday and Friday nights.
NBC is canceling the ''Friends" spinoff ''Joey," the sci-fi drama ''Surface," and producer Dick Wolf's show about youthful prosecutors, ''Conviction."
For his new ''Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," Sorkin, creator of ''The West Wing," brings Bradley Whitford from that series, along with Matthew Perry of ''Friends" and Amanda Peet. It's about the turmoil and romance backstage at a network comedy sketch show, and NBC is telegraphing its importance by scheduling it at 9 p.m. on Thursdays -- once the time slot of ''Cheers" and ''Seinfeld."
NBC also scheduled ''30 Rock," a comedy that Tina Fey of ''Saturday Night Live" wrote and stars in, about the backstage world of a network comedy. NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly said he wasn't worried about two new similar series, saying the tone is very different.
Dramas the network will introduce in the fall are ''Friday Night Lights," an adaptation of the popular book built around a Texas high school football team; ''Kidnapped," a thriller about the abduction of a rich New York teenager; and ''
The introduction of National Football League games on Sunday nights gives NBC strength on what has been a weak night. When football ends, NBC will bring back ''The Apprentice" with Donald Trump in Los Angeles, and a talent show with Regis Philbin as host that is getting a summer run starting in June.
''Scrubs" and ''Crossing Jordan" received full-season orders, although they are not on the schedule. That means each show will likely replace others that fail.