'Stars' in orbit for ABC Thursday

Reality hit “Dancing With the Stars” will waltz back on the ABC schedule at midseason, replacing “Alias” on Thursdays for its second number.

“Stars” will return Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. and run for eight weeks, the network announced Thursday. As expected, “Alias” will go on hiatus as star Jennifer Garner takes a maternity leave. The action drama is expected to return with original segs later in the season.

ABC is still mulling a home for the half-hour “Stars” results show — in which the couple with the least viewer votes is revealed and booted off the competish — but that edition will likely air on Fridays.

“Dancing With the Stars” was a tremendous summer player for ABC, averaging a stellar 16.8 million viewers to become the most-watched summer series in five years for any net. “Dancing” also pulled a 5.1 rating/15 share in adults 18-49 over the course of its six-week run.

With an extra two weeks added to this winter’s edition, the second version of “Dancing” is expected to expand the number of contestants. The show, which pairs a celebrity with a professional dancer, has not yet finalized this edition’s talent roster.

BBC Worldwide produces “Stars” for ABC; Richard Hopkins and Conrad Green exec produce.

Meanwhile, NBC has ordered two more episodes of hit comedy “My Name Is Earl.” The frosh skein has become the top-rated network sitcom in adults 18-49 and a key building block for the Peacock. Rumors still abound that NBC is mulling a move for the show to Thursdays this midseason; nothing official has been announced.

The additional greenlight brings the grand season “Earl” total to 24. Produced by 20th Century Fox TV, the Jason Lee starrer comes from the mind of creator Greg Garcia.

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