NBC's upcoming season focuses on comedy, with 4 new sitcoms

NBC didn't invoke its "must-see TV" 20th-century marketing slogan in announcing a renewed emphasis on sitcoms next season, but it could have.

Network will also introduce several new dramas and has renewed popular series This Is Us for 3 more seasons

From left, Joel Kim Booster, Poppy Liu, Samba Schutte, Kal Penn, Diana Marie Riva and Moses Storm star in Sunnyside, one of four new NBC sitcoms coming this fall. (Colleen Hayes/NBC via The Associated Press)

NBC didn't invoke its "must-see TV" 20th-century marketing slogan in announcing a renewed emphasis on sitcoms next season, but it could have.

Calling comedy the "heart" of its brand, the network announced it is adding four new sitcoms to its lineup for 2019-20, with stars including Kenan Thompson of Saturday Night Live and sitcom veterans Fran Drescher (The Nanny) and Steven Weber (MomWings).

On Thursday night, where NBC sitcoms including Cheers and Friends ruled back in the 1980s and '90s, the network will introduce newcomers Perfect Harmony and Sunnyside to join returning comedies Superstore and The Good Place this fall.

The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper, will return as part of NBC's comedy lineup. (Justin Lubin/2016 NBC Universal Media, LLC)

Perfect Harmony stars Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) as a former college music professor whose next chapter unexpectedly involves a small-town church's choir.

In Sunnyside, Kal Penn calls on his comedic credits (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) and political ones (he served in the Obama administration) to play a fallen New York City councilman who's seeking redemption for himself and help for immigrants dreaming of American citizenship.

Thompson will do double-duty at NBC next season, sticking with SNL and starring in The Kenan Show, with Chris Rock among the executive producers.

In the midseason series, Thompson plays a dedicated dad balancing family, work and a meddling father-in-law played by Andy Garcia.

Kenan Thompson of Saturday Night Live will also star in his own show, which lists comedian Chris Rock as an executive producer. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press)

Drescher and Weber star in Indebted, also for midseason. They play what NBC called "boomerang parents" who, broke and unannounced, move back in with their son and daughter-in-law.

NBC kicked off the broadcast networks' presentation of their new schedules to advertisers in New York this week. The network said it's working from a position of ratings strength but, acknowledging the rising competition from streaming platforms such as Netflix, said shows that begin on the network will have a critical digital afterlife.

More This Is Us, more drama

The popular drama's return wasn't in doubt, but NBC cemented its value to the network by renewing This Is Us for what it called an "unprecedented" three more years.

Whether it will continue beyond season six is "open for right now," said Paul Telegdy, who is co-chair with George Cheeks of NBC Entertainment. Series creator Dan Fogelman "has a plan for the show," but Telegdy wouldn't tip his hand as to whether that plan will mean even more years with the Pearson family.

This Is Us will return in the fall, but fans of some NBC shows, including Manifest, will have to wait until mid-season in early 2020.

From left, Caitlin McGee, Jimmy Smits and Michael Luwoye star in the upcoming NBC drama Bluff City Law. (NBC via The Associated Press)

Four new dramas are slated for the coming season, with one set for fall. Bluff City Law stars NBC alum Jimmy Smits (The West Wing, L.A. Law) as head of a celebrated Memphis, Tenn., law firm who is joined by his estranged daughter.

The mid-season newcomers include Council of Dads, about a family man who makes sure his brood will always have the fatherly help they need; Lincoln, inspired by the novel The Bone Collector; and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, about a brilliant computer coder who's able to eavesdrop on the hopes of those around her through her songs.