Network adds new dramas 'Black Donnellys,' 'Raines'

This article was updated at 9:00 p.m.

“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is staying put on Monday nights, while the Donald is about to do battle with the “Desperate Housewives.”

NBC has also drafted its 2007 recruits in the annual battle against “American Idol”: “Deal or No Deal” and “Dateline.” New dramas “The Black Donnellys” and “Raines,” meanwhile, are will land on Monday and Friday nights, respectively, come March.

Those are the key moves in Peacock’s midseason sked, which the net confirmed Wednesday after weeks of speculation. Despite buzz that “Studio 60″ would get a new timeslot, skein’s stable ratings in its Monday slot convinced execs to leave the Aaron Sorkin skein exactly where it is.

“It’s reached a level (in the ratings) that’s acceptable,” NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf said. “We looked at a number of things, but nothing really made sense in terms of a more complex move. We decided let’s hold steady on this night.”

Rest of NBC’s Monday sked –the strong “Deal or No Deal” and “Heroes” — remains stet, at least through February.

In early March, Peacock will replace “Studio 60″ with “The Black Donnellys,” the Paul Haggis skein NBC originally intended to spell “ER” in the winter. Metcalf said “Donnellys” is a “young-skewing drama” that should be helped by the broad demo base of “Heroes.”

“We’re giving it a chance to succeed,” he said.

Four unaired episodes of “Studio 60″ will remain when the show ankles Monday after February sweeps. No word yet on when or where those segs will air.

With Monday stable, NBC is focusing much of its midseason marketing muscle on a Sunday night makeover post-football.

Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” will begin its new Los Angeles-based cycle in a new timeslot: 9 p.m. Sundays. It’ll be paired with “Grease: You’re the One That I Want,” the new high-profile talent competish that will, as previously announced, air at 8 p.m. Sundays (Daily Variety, Nov. 7).

“Crossing Jordan” returns at 10 p.m. Sundays, with “Dateline” returning at 7 p.m. on Feb. 11.

NBC will launch its new Sunday sked with 90-minute bows for “Grease” and “Apprentice” on Jan. 7 from 8-11 p.m. Skeins will also be extended to 90 minutes on Jan. 14 opposite Fox’s “24” premiere, with “Jordan” premiering Jan 21.

Metcalf said NBC is looking for family tune-in on Sundays, with “Grease” helping the Peacock “break through the clutter” of copycat reality skeins. It’ll help that CBS’ “The Amazing Race” will be off the air until sometime in February.

“We’re not going to come out of the gate and match those great football numbers to which we’ve become accustomed,” he said. “But I think we’re on the road to keeping Sunday in the plus column.”

Season two of “America’s Got Talent,” which NBC had promised would premiere in January, has been moved to summer.

Meanwhile, although “Studio 60″ won’t switch timeslots in January, the critic-friendly “Friday Night Lights” is moving to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. from Tuesdays starting Jan. 3. NBC plans to air eight consecutive original segs of “FNL” from Jan. 10 through the end of February.

“FNL” will now lead into NBC’s second weekly edition of “Deal or No Deal,” which will fly right into the eye of Hurricane “Idol,” airing Wednesdays at 9. “Medium” continues to air at 10.

“Dateline NBC” will replace “FNL” on Tuesdays, squaring off against “Idol” at 8. Peacock’s two-hour “Law & Order” block remains from 9 to 11.

Moves largely protect “FNL” from the “Idol” juggernaut, though it’ll still get nicked on nights Fox decides to expand the “Idol” results show.

Metcalf said NBC’s strategy with “FNL” is to move the show, “keep it there and let people find it. It’s a show you love to death and you just wish you had the perfect timeslot for it.”

Exec said NBC also hopes to remains as stable as possible this year vs. “Idol,” skedding two shows — “Deal” and “Dateline” — that have strong identities in the marketplace and don’t need to be overhyped to get attention.

“You don’t have to keep going back to the drawing board,” Metcalf said.

Peacock is leaving its recently rejiggered Thursday lineup intact, while Fridays will also remain the same through early March.

By mid- or late March, NBC will replace “Las Vegas” with Jeff Goldblum starrer “Raines” in the 9 p.m. Friday slot. “Las Vegas” will likely have completed all or most of its 2006-07 run by then.

Still awaiting a timeslot: Midseason laffer “The Singles Table,” which recently had its episodic order reduced to a total of six segs. Then there’s also Andy Richter comedy “Andy Barker, P.I.”

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