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Idol Forces NBC to Move Apprentice

After NBC’s new hit, The Apprentice, starring Donald Trump, saw viewers depart in droves in favor of Fox’s American Idol Wednesday night, NBC decided to rearrange much of its schedule to get its best ratings opportunity for The Apprentice and to shore up Thursday night against CBS’ coming Survivor: All-Stars.

Starting next week, The Apprentice will air Thursdays at 9 p.m., following Friends and Will & Grace. Scrubs, which had been leading out of Will & Grace, now will move to Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m., bumping Happy Family to 8:30 p.m., following Whoopi.

The Tracy Morgan Show moves to Saturdays at 8 p.m., not a good sign for the marginally-performing show, and what will air on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. is unclear.

As for Wednesdays at 8 p.m., which was to be The Apprentice’s time slot, NBC will air Apprentice repeats in that slot for the foreseeable future. Ed, which NBC moved to Friday at 9 p.m. from Wednesday at 8 p.m., will stay there.

The Apprentice has been hot, launching with a 9.1 rating/22 share in adults 18-49 and 18.5 million viewers on Thursday, Jan.8, between Friends and ER. That was the highest rating for any new TV series in a year.

The show’s next original episode, airing Thursday, Jan. 15, between Friends and Will & Grace, also scored big ratings, with a 10.0/25 in adults 18-49 and 20.2 million viewers.

But in its outing last Wednesday against Fox’s unstoppable American Idol the show took a big hit, with a 4.9/12 in adults 18-49 and 12.3 million viewers overall. Idol, on the other hand, scored a 12.7/32 in adults 18-49 and nearly 30 million viewers overall.

What apparently does not frighten NBC is CSI, TV’s most-watched show, which will be The Apprentice’s competition.

In its Jan. 15 outing, The Apprentice beat the common half-hour of an original CSI from 9:30 to 10 p.m. in adults 18-34, with a 10.5/20 to a 7.2/19. But CSI topped The Apprentice in adults 18-49, with a 10.1/24 to Apprentice’s 9.2/22. CSI also won in viewers, with 27 million compared to Apprentice’s 20.35 million.