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NBC Shakes Up Programming

In a major shakeup of its programming lineup, NBC is returning to an 8-10 p.m. comedy block on Thursdays and pulling its short-lived Wednesday night sitcom Twenty Good Years off of the schedule. There is no firm date set for its return.

Nine episodes of the older-skewing comedy starring Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow have been shot. NBC intends to complete all 13, indicating the network may bring it back at some point later this season.

Under the revamp, NBC will keep My Name is Earl and The Office from 8-9 p.m. Thursday. Starting Nov. 30, it will return utility hitter Scrubs at 9 followed by 30 Rock, which moves from 8 p.m. Wednesdays to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays leading into ER.

The third weekly edition of Deal or No Deal, which over five Thursday night airings this season at 9 had averaged a distant third-place 3.3 rating/8 share in adults 18-49, will be benched. But with all of the holes in NBC’s schedule, it is a safe bet that it won’t be gone for long.

The change will follow a special “super-sized” Thursday night of comedy two weeks earlier on Nov. 16, with three 40-minute episodes of Earl, The Office and 30 Rock.

On Nov. 15, Medium will return to the Wednesday night schedule with an extended 9-11 p.m. episode. The Biggest Loser will kick off the night at 8. In subsequent weeks, specials will air at 8, Loser at 9 (except for its expanded 8-10 finale in December) and Medium at 10.

The moves come after NBC had trouble getting its Wednesday night comedy block rolling with the two freshmen sitcoms, which faced off against stiff competition from ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and CBS’ Jericho.

In their two October airings, 30 Rock has been averaging a 2.6/8 and Twenty Good Years a 2.3/6. But from week one to two, 30 Rock dropped 21% from a 2.9 to 2.3 rating, while Twenty Good Years, which at 8:30 retained 88% of its 30 Rock lead-in audience, fell a like amount from a 2.5 to 2.0.

By returning to a comedy night on Thursdays, NBC will try to build on any momentum in the first hour with Earl (scoring in the high 3s) and The Office (low 4s). Deal had been hurting at 9 against two of TV top-ranked series, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and CBS’ CSI.

Scrubs, which last appeared with double runs from 9-10 Tuesdays starting last January, held up better than NBC anticipated against Fox’s American Idol overruns and House.