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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC said on Tuesday it is broadening its comedies to bring in bigger audiences, and drove home the point by bringing out what could be the network's newest star - a scene-stealing monkey called Dr. Rizzo.
Rizzo, a capuchin monkey whose Hollywood resume includes the movie "The Hangover Part 2," is just one animal in a cast of tigers, cats, owls, boa constrictors and dogs in the upcoming "Animal Practice" - a comedy set in a veterinary hospital that NBC hopes will have mass appeal.
"We're going to transition with our comedy programs and try to broaden the audience," NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told TV reporters on Tuesday.
Greenblatt said that although shows such as "The Office," "Community" and "30 Rock" are "award winning and incredibly sophisticated and clever," they don't bring in enough viewers for the network.
"They do tend to be a little more narrow and sophisticated than we would want for a broad audience," Greenblatt said.
NBC has ordered seven new comedies for the upcoming season starting in September, including "Animal Practice," and a show executive-produced by comedian Jimmy Fallon about young, hands-on dads and their babies called "Guys with Kids."
"I hope these new shows are also clever and smart but can also broaden the size of the audience," Greenblatt said.
"Animal Practice" stars Justin Kirk as a cranky veterinarian who relates better to pets than people. Dr. Rizzo is his cute resident sidekick in what producers on Tuesday called a workplace comedy with a twist.
"I have never seen a show where human behavior is seen through the prism of animal behavior and we were really excited by the possibility of that," executive producer Alessandro Tanaka said.
Tanaka and the show's other producers say the comedy is as much about the relationships - professional and personal - between the human inhabitants of the animal hospital.
"It is a smart, character-driven comedy which also happens to have a monkey in it. It's not the other way round," said executive producer Scott Armstrong.
But as if to challenge that notion, in zoomed Dr. Rizzo, perched on a toy ambulance with sirens blazing and giving a wave to assembled television critics at their bi-annual meeting.
"She is super cool. She is the most famous monkey in Hollywood," said Kirk. "She is pretty amazing."
U.S. viewers will get a sneak peek of "Animal Practice" next month during NBC's coverage of the London Olympics, before starting its run in September.
Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Christine Kearney and Steve Orlofsky