Can Thursday be funny?
NBC is rolling out Thursday 2.0, plotting a return to four comedies on one of TV’s most important nights.
Starting Nov. 30, Peacock will replace the Thursday edition of “Deal or No Deal” with “Scrubs” at 9 and frosh laffer “30 Rock” at 9:30 p.m. Skeins will face the tough task of competing against megahits “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI.”
“My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” are staying put in their respective 8 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday slots. New laffer “Twenty Good Years,” now paired on Wednesdays with “Rock,” will go on hiatus next month; Peacock brass said they’ve yet to make a final decision on the show’s future.
While nobody at NBC expects “Scrubs” and “30 Rock” to perform miracles, move at least gives the Peacock an identity on a night it once owned with its “Must-See TV” lineup. NBC now finds itself in third place on Thursdays.
“We’re not going to end up being the No. 1 network on the night right away, but we will have a branded night of topnotch comedy,” Reilly told Daily Variety, calling the move “a good sales play for us.”
That’s because the two new laffers are likely to attract a younger, more ad-friendly aud — even though it’s possible the shows will attract fewer overall eyeballs than “Deal.”
Reilly has long expressed a desire to get NBC back into the four-comedy game on Thursdays, and he got there briefly in the second half of last season, when “The Apprentice” shifted off the night.
Peacock briefly flirted with slotting “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” on Thursdays, but dropped that plan once ABC moved “Grey’s Anatomy” into the Thursday fray. Some observers thought NBC might bring back a four-comedy block in the fall, but Reilly said the landscape was too competitive to launch a new laffer on the night.
Now that he’s seen a number of episodes of “30 Rock,” however, Reilly thinks the show has the goods to find an audience on a new night. As for “Scrubs,” he said the skein “has a loyal audience” that will follow it to “even the worst time periods.”
What’s more, “The fact that ‘ER’ has been so strong (this season) at 10 p.m. means we can afford to put some comedies on that have a dedicated audience,” Reilly said.
Making Reilly’s decision easier is the fact that “Deal” — while still winning its timeslot on Mondays –hasn’t scored boffo Nielsens on Thursdays.
“If ‘Deal’ were doing a 5 rating (among adults 18-49), I’d have to think twice,” he said.
While the gamer is currently slated to air just once a week starting next month, Reilly said he can’t rule out a second weekly airing of the show if need be. Peacock prexy made it clear, however, that the net doesn’t want to overschedule “Deal.”
As for the specifics of NBC’s sked shuffle:
- Peacock will prep viewers for the comedy shift by airing 40-minute episodes of “Earl,” “Office” and “Rock” on Thursday, Nov. 16. A two hour “Deal” is slated for Thanksgiving, with the four-comedy block bowing Nov. 30.
- NBC will keep its 8-9 p.m. Wednesday comedy block of “Rock” and “Twenty Good Years” intact through Nov. 8. On Nov. 15, “The Biggest Loser” airs at 8 p.m., leading into the two-hour season premiere of “Medium” (opposite ABC’s premiere of “Daybreak”).
After that, NBC will fill its Wednesday hole with a variety of specials, including its Madonna concert and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting.
- While “Twenty Good Years” won’t have a timeslot after Nov. 8, Reilly said he won’t decide what to do with the show for a few more weeks. He wants to see how the skein is doing at the end of what will have been a five-week run on Wednesdays.
Reilly said “Twenty” could return in the winter or spring, paired with one of NBC’s midseason laffers. A decision on additional scripts or episodes will come in the next few weeks.
“This is not a quiet signal it’s canceled,” Reilly said. “But (only) some of these (frosh) shows are gonna get the chance to keep on going. I have to look at ‘Twenty Good Years,’ ‘Friday Night Lights’ and, frankly, ‘Studio 60.’ “