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NBC sitcom block stays

NBC has renewed its entire Thursdaysitcom block, the centerpiece of the web’s primetime lineup, through next season.

The network made no mention of the night’s lone drama, “L.A. Law,” which is said to be on the fence in terms of returning for what would be its ninth year. NBC has already announced its intent to renew “Homicide: Life on the Street,” and may be considering that hour for the “Law” slot, which, even at an equal or lower ratings level, would cost less from a license fee standpoint than the Twentieth TV ensemble drama.

Above expectations

NBC’s Thursday comedies, meanwhile, have performed well above network expectations, surpassing the web’s 8-10 p.m. average from last season — when “Cheers” was still anchoring the night — and offering the highest concentration of adults 18-49 in any two-hour sitcom block, topping even ABC’s Tuesday heavyweights, according to NBC research.

The renewals represent, in sequence, the third season for TriStar’s “Mad About You,” the fifth full year of Paramount’s “Wings,” a fifth entire season of Castle Rock’s “Seinfeld” and the second year for “Cheers” spinoff “Frasier,” also from Paramount.

Turning point ahead

Sources say the “Seinfeld” renewal also includes options on the following season, which would be the pivotal year when Castle Rock could conceivably shop the show to other networks.

The series, which actually premiered as a special in July 1989 and returned for a brief run in spring 1990, is currently being launched into syndication (Columbia is handling distribution) and the coming year will put its tally over the magic 100-episode mark.

“Seinfeld” is averaging a 19.3 rating, 29 share season to date, trailing only ABC’s “Home Improvement” among entertainment series. (“Improvement” is dueling with CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” for top household honors among all primetime fare.)

Although its production company resisted the 8 p.m. slot last spring when fall schedules were set, “Mad About You” is now regularly beating “The Simpsons” in both households and among adults 18-49, improving time-period performance by the latter standard 45% over last year.

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