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NBC renews ‘This Is Us’ for 3 years

Susan Kelechi Watson (left) and Sterling K. Brown are two of the stars of NBC’s “This Is Us.”
Susan Kelechi Watson (left) and Sterling K. Brown are two of the stars of NBC’s “This Is Us.”(Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

NEW YORK — 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 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 (“Mom,’’ “Wings”).

On Thursday night, where NBC sitcoms including ‘‘Cheers,’’ ‘‘Friends,’’ and “Seinfeld” 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.

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‘‘Thursdays will continue to be the home of the smartest, buzziest and most enduring comedies on television,’’ George Cheeks, who is co-chair with Paul Telegdy of NBC Entertainment, said with bravado.

‘‘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.

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.

The long network afterlife of ‘‘Friends’’ and other sitcoms makes them valuable now and in the future for its makers, which for ‘‘Sunnyside’’ and ‘‘The Kenan Show’’ include NBC corporate sibling Universal Television.

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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.

The return of “This Is Us” wasn’t in doubt, but NBC cemented its value to the network by renewing it 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 & Grace,’’ and ‘‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’’ will have to wait until midseason in early 2020.

NBC executives said they’re not worried by the challenge of drawing audience attention to late-arriving entries.

‘‘There is no negative to a show being launched in midseason’’ given the promotional platform that ‘‘NBC Sunday Night Football’’ provides from fall through winter, Telegdy said.

Four 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, Tennessee, law firm who is joined by his estranged daughter.

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The midseason 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.