Looking for comedies that can replace the soon-to-depart cornerstones ''Friends'' and ''Frasier,'' NBC will announce a fall lineup on Monday heavy on familiar faces and proven concepts. At least six new shows will make the fall schedule, with most of NBC's current lineup, including the verging-on-cancellation shows ''Ed,'' ''Boomtown,'' and ''Good Morning, Miami,'' remaining intact.
NBC's biggest hope for a new ''Friends'' is ''Coupling,'' based on a hit British sitcom about the sex lives of a group of thirtysomething pals. Other comedies include ''Whoopi,'' in which Whoopi Goldberg plays a former diva who runs a hotel; a sitcom starring ''Saturday Night Live'''s Tracy Morgan as a mechanic, and ''Happy Family,'' starring John Larroquette and Christine Baranski as parents whose three grown kids won't leave them alone. (Either ''Happy Family'' or the Morgan show is likely to be postponed until midseason.) There's also the comedy/drama ''Miss/Match,'' from the pen of ''Sex and the City'''s Darren Star, featuring Alicia Silverstone as a New York divorce lawyer/matchmaker.
Among drama's there's ''The Lyon's Den,'' another political drama starring Rob Lowe, which will precede his old stomping ground at ''The West Wing'' on Wednesdays. And James Caan stars in the tentatively titled ''Las Vegas,'' a soap about the casino city as seen through the eyes of Caan's hotel security chief.
Other changes: ''Crossing Jordan'' will be off the air until midseason, due to Jill Hennessy's pregnancy. Then there's Heather Locklear, who was developing her own sitcom for NBC. The network passed, hoping to use her instead to shore up ''A.U.S.A.,'' as she did for ''Spin City'' and ''Melrose Place.'' Instead, NBC canceled ''A.U.S.A.'' and now hopes to add her to ''Good Morning, Miami,'' which will stick around with or without Locklear.
The NBC announcement marks the beginning of upfront week, in which the networks stage glossy unveilings of their fall lineups in New York (NBC's presentation is being held at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.) The week is named for the $8 billion or so that advertisers will pay up front for next season's commercial time after seeing the networks' presentations.