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TV Fall Preview: 'Cursed'

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It’s every pun-loving headline writer’s dream. In May, NBC deems The Steven Weber Show its crown jewel for the fall, placing it in the coveted Thursday-night lineup. A few months later, it also deems that the sitcom needs a new title: Cursed. Sure enough, nearly a month before the show’s debut, its creators ditch the project, the few filmed episodes are scrapped or reedited, and a pricey new creative team is brought in to perform some comedy triage.

Maybe they should have stuck with that first title after all. ”We have a show that has a great cast, and we were disappointed with the writing,” says NBC Entertainment president Garth Ancier. ”So rather than put on a show that you feel is not up to snuff, you try to make a positive change to the writing staff.”

To that end, NBC parted ways with cocreators Nat Bernstein and Mitchel Katlin and recruited former Friends exec producer Adam Chase, who plans to bring in some writers from that show and Roseanne. And judging by some of the concepts Cursed‘s star was mulling over, they need all the help they can get.

”We had this idea where I’m trying to get a suntan, and I fall asleep,” Weber explains. ”When I wake up, I’m sunburned except for a patch on my face or some other part of my body — my ass or chest, I don’t know — that resembles the Virgin Mary, and people use me as an icon. Hilarity ensues.”

Oookay — that sure does sound like NBC’s Thursday-night 8:30 slot. But if anyone can overcome the, well, curse of that historically disastrous half hour (must we bring up Jesse and The Single Guy?), it just might be Weber, who charmed audiences for seven years as Wings‘s laid-back lothario, Brian Hackett. ”[Cursed] was our highest-testing pilot — the audience loved him,” says Ancier. ”Steven brings such charm to this very broad concept.”

That’s one way to spin Cursed‘s crazed premise: A Chicago-based bachelor (Weber) is hexed by a disgruntled blind date, leading to a variety of gaffes, embarrassments, and screwups. ”I was looking for something that would be more interesting than what’s on,” says the 39-year-old Weber, who bemoans ”middle of the road” must-see misses like The Naked Truth and Union Square. ”Those shows all had good writers on them, but [they were] familiar — like buying generic cigarettes.”

Cursed does boast a distinctive pack of regulars, including Wendell Pierce (The Gregory Hines Show) as Weber’s smooth-talking coworker, Amy Pietz (Caroline in the City) as his ex-girlfriend, and Chris Elliott (Get a Life) as his occasionally pantsless roommate. ”I’m going to be wearing as little clothing as possible,” Elliott claims.

But even with weekly partial nudity, Cursed will have to overcome its own titular trap and find some stability — as well as a tone that’s palatable to a mass audience — in order to survive. ”I’ve reached the point where if sock puppets are on the show, and if it’s good, that’s fine with me,” says Weber. Sounds like he’s ready to wing it.

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