Jennifer Armstrong
November 21, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

One way NBC is keeping its Must See hopes alive: by signing a slew of big names to holding deals. These types of pacts, which lock stars into exclusive relationships, have been around since TV’s early days, but the network has compiled the most impressive roster of talent in recent memory (Jeff Goldblum, Kathy Griffin, Macaulay Culkin, Alyson Hannigan, Heather Locklear, and Jennifer Coolidge). And to prevent costly flops the Peacock is scaling back the payout to these stars and asking the actors to make smaller commitments. NBC is keeping the details of this season’s deals close to the vest, but last year the net paid Minnie Driver (left) a modest six-figure fee to consider a handful of scripts. She didn’t find a suitable project and the deal expired. ”I do this very cautiously,” says Kevin Reilly, NBC’s president of prime-time development. ”If you look at some of the worst shows in recent years, they’ve come out of very big talent deals. I have seen executives trying to force somebody into a part that’s not right because they want that name.” Cough, cough, Encore! Encore!

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