Nets plug in laffers

ABC picks up 'Lopez Show' while NBC swaps

One Wednesday night laffer has reason to cheer — while two Tuesday sitcoms may want to jeer — as ABC picked up a full season of “The George Lopez Show” and NBC played schedule roulette yet again with “Just Shoot Me” and “In-Laws.”

Coming off its best performance yet this week (12.7 million viewers, 5.3 rating/14 share among adults 18-49), “George Lopez” has turned into a surprise hit for ABC.

As a midseason entry last spring, “Lopez” aired just four episodes. The Warner Bros. Television laffer showed promise, but history has shown that most extra-short midseason orders quickly collapse when they return the following fall (such as last season’s “What About Joan”).

But “Lopez” has escaped that trend, holding a solid 100% of the adults 18-49 audience from its lead-in, the Damon Wayans laffer “My Wife and Kids,” for two weeks straight.

“The show is getting much stronger this year,” said “Lopez” exec producer Bruce Helford. “It’s not like we were really on the radar. The word of mouth from people watching has been great.”

Helford, whose Mohawk Prods. handles the show along with Fortis Films, also credits the decision to add a tinge of seriousness to this season’s episodes, as Lopez’s character searches for his long-lost father, for the success.

“I really believe people enjoy seeing a show with some substance,” Helford said. “Sitcoms had gotten frivolous. There hasn’t been a show with substance for awhile in the sitcom world, which is why you’re seeing ‘Bernie Mac’ pop, and our show pop. Shows have got to be funny first and foremost, but I’m going back to my ‘Roseanne’ days to tackle some important stuff.”

Fellow exec producer Sandra Bullock will make a return guest appearance to “Lopez” in November, while Helford said he has other stunt castings in the works. Besides Bullock and Helford, Deborah Oppenheimer and Robert Borden exec produce “Lopez.”

ABC’s decision to pick up the back nine of “Lopez” was also welcome news given the disappointing ratings for Helford’s “Drew Carey Show” this season. Helford believes the show should recover somewhat once it moves to Fridays next month.

“It’s been impossible on Mondays,” he said. “We’ve been going on after 10 p.m., up against ‘CSI: Miami,’ on the West Coast.”

Meanwhile, NBC may be trying to make viewers dizzy on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

The Peacock has decided to move “Just Shoot Me” back to 8 p.m. and “In-Laws” back to 8:30 p.m. — one week after the net apologized and moved the shows back to their original slots.

For those at home keeping notes, NBC announced in May that “In-Laws” would air at 8 p.m., with “Shoot Me” at 8:30 p.m. Then it opted to launch the season with back-to-back “In-Laws” at 8 and 8:30. Peacock then decided to keep “In-Laws” at 8:30 and bow “Just Shoot Me” at 8 p.m.

When that bombed — and irked “Shoot Me” creator Steve Levitan in the process, NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker apologized and restored “In-Laws” to 8 and “Shoot Me” to 8:30.

Never mind. “In-Laws” collapsed this Tuesday, so for the next two weeks, Peacock will throw “Shoot Me” back to 8 p.m. and give “In-Laws” another shot at 8:30.

In other scheduling news, ABC has slated its fast-tracked telepic “The Pennsylvania Miners’ Story” for the last Sunday of sweeps, Nov. 24. The movie will air opposite Julia Roberts night on NBC — which has scheduled a repeat of the special “Friends” that featured Roberts, followed by “Erin Brockovich” — and the CBS TV movie “Martin & Lewis.”

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