‘Crime’ lays down the ‘Law’

NBC has scheduled the new Dick Wolf-Universal drama “Crime & Punishment” at 10 p.m. Thursdays starting March 4, bumping Twentieth TV’s struggling “L.A. Law” throughout the month of March.

“L.A. Law” will return to its regular time period April 1 with the first of its new episodes overseen by exec producer William Finkelstein, who was brought back to the show to replace John Tinker and John Masius (Daily Variety, Jan. 15 ).

Those eight installments will then play through the May sweeps.

“Crime,” which stars Jon Tenney and Rachel Ticotin, will premiere March 3 in the time slot of another Wolf-Universal hour, “Law & Order,” and will air again in that slot the following Wednesday–meaning it will air six original episodes over a four-week span.

Aside from hoping to provide the new series a solid lead-in from NBC’s 9 o’clock comedies, the move adds fuel to doubts regarding whether there will be an eighth season of “L.A. Law.”

Masius and Tinker completed 14 episodes of “Law” before the change was made. Ten of them have aired thus far, averaging a 12.7 rating, 21 share in Nielsen, winning its time period only once this season.

NBC previously announced a major lineup shuffle that becomes effective in early February, with “Seinfeld” moving to Thursday, the new hour “Homicide: Life On the Street” joining the Wednesday lineup, and “Almost Home” and “Mad About You” bookending “Nurses” and “Empty Nest” in a juggled Saturday comedy block (Daily Variety, Jan. 5).

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