NBC Overhaul Aims for Thursday Glory

One day after Fox announced it would keep ratings behemoth American Idol on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, NBC responded with a wide-ranging shake-up of its lineup. 

Beginning the week of Jan. 2, it will reintroduce a two-hour, Thursday comedy block highlighted by the move of rookie My Name Is Earl to Thursdays at 9. Left without a place on the schedule is Joey, though NBC says it will return after the Olympics.

As for the reworking of Thursday night, NBC Universal Executive VP of Program Planning & Scheduling Mitch Metcalf has no problem acknowledging the network was waiting to see what Fox would do with Idol.

“To say we were ignoring Idol would just be a lie, it would be foolish,” he says. “It is fair to say we waited for the most perfect information we could have.”

He also says that, had Fox made a move, NBC’s schedule might look different.

“We would have re-evaluated,” Metcalf says. “But we expected them to stay Tuesday-Wednesday. But you never know, so we just wanted to wait and see that our expectations were true.”

With Joey pulled from Thursdays, NBC will move Will & Grace to 8 and follow it with new sitcom Four Kings. Moving from Tuesdays along with Earl is its current companion, The Office, which will slot in at 9:30.  

Tuesdays will begin with the returning Fear Factor at 8, which NBC will follow with back-to-back original episodes of Scrubs, neither of which made the fall schedule.

As for Joey, Metcalf didn’t want to speculate that its post-Olympics return would be a last chance at survival.

“That’s a bit premature. Let’s see how it does, we have to look at how it does and the other new shows do.”

He added that NBC does not plan on adding to the six comedy slots that will be on the new schedule. For instance, he says the presence of Idol again precludes the network from using comedies Tuesday from 8-9.

“We’ve had some history trying that and it proved to be difficult. Going with drama or Fear Factor is a better way to go.”

However, there will be some movement within the six slots, with Joey on the bench, as well as comedies in production including Teachers.

NBC will also bring back the next cycle of The Apprentice after the Olympics, but did not specify a night or time. One possibility looks to be Wednesdays at 9, where NBC will run a series of self-contained The Biggest Loser specials for 6 weeks prior to the Olympics.

“It could be,” Metcalf says. “You also have to look at where Idol is going to be. It will be shifting around on Wednesdays, so you have to factor that in as well.”

NBC also said it will run The Book of Daniel as a “limited drama series” Fridays from January 6-February 3. The network will also replace Three Wishes with Most Outrageous TV Moments Fridays at 8.