It’s no wonder no one can find the island: “Lost” is moving once again, this time to Thursday nights.
“Lost” returns Jan. 31 — the first night of February sweeps — at 9 p.m., while “Grey’s Anatomy” repeats will temporarily move to Fridays at 8 p.m., although the latter sked shift was not formally announced.
Meanwhile, having depleted original pre-Writers Guild episodes, much of the Alphabet’s fall crop of dramas haven’t been given regular timeslots this midseason. Instead, frosh entries “Pushing Daisies,” “Private Practice,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Women’s Murder Club” will rotate in a Friday night 9 p.m. drama encore wheel.
Sked also keeps mostly original episodes on the air at 10 p.m. — the timeslot most crucial for affiliates. Moves were revealed Friday afternoon, as ABC took the wraps off its long-anticipated midseason strategy.
“It’s a bit sobering to know that it’s going to be a very different kind of spring than anyone would have liked,” said Jeff Bader, ABC’s exec veep of program planning and scheduling.
Given the strike, the Alphabet will rely heavily on original scripted skeins that had been waiting in the wings (and in most cases held back to fill a schedule impacted by a strike), as well as new and returning reality skeins.
In moving “Lost” to Thursday, Alphabet is looking to maintain some dominance in adults 18-49 on the night.
“Lost” is no stranger to time period changes, having had runs at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. on Wednesday nights. New move is the show’s first to a different evening, however.
ABC will have eight episodes of “Lost” that were penned pre-strike. Net will supplement the Jan. 31 launch by repeating last year’s finale on Jan. 30; a new “Lost” recap special is also in the works.
For now, the Alphabet will stick with its original plan of running all “Lost” episodes in consecutive order, without a break. Of course, the original plan called for 16 segs, which would have kept “Lost” humming through the end of the season.
Instead, in a best-case scenario, the strike will be resolved and ABC will still be able to run eight more segs, with a break between the two runs.
But even with a truncated order, net decided that pent-up demand for the show was too great to delay it in the same way Fox held off on “24.”
Plus, “Lost” is too much of a midseason power player for ABC to pass up — and by moving it to Thursday, the most desirable night of the week for advertisers, Alphabet can cushion the blow of losing “Grey’s Anatomy” originals on the night.
“Lost” exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have said they would prefer ABC hold off on airing “Lost” until all 16 episodes are available. But Bader said that was never an option at the net, which didn’t consult with the producers on how and where the show would air.
ABC will utilize the return of “Lost” on Jan. 31 to also launch newcomer “Eli Stone” at 10 p.m. (“Big Shots” goes on hiatus at that point).
“Grey’s Anatomy” will likely return to Thursdays, but at 8 p.m., after the final handful of “Ugly Betty” segs run, Bader said.
ABC has just one original “Grey’s Anatomy” seg left, and it will air Thursday, Jan. 3. That same night, the Alphabet will serve up a sneak premiere of “Cashmere Mafia,” which will air at 10 p.m. before moving to its regular Wednesday 10 p.m. slot on Jan. 9.
Also on Wednesdays — the former home of “Lost” — ABC will go with reality at 8 p.m. (“Wife Swap”) against the “Idol” results show, followed by “Supernanny” at 9 p.m., starting Jan. 2.
Jan. 3 preem of “Cashmere Mafia” puts it ahead of rival NBC entry “Lipstick Jungle,” which bows Feb. 7. When “Cashmere Mafia” ends its run at the end of February, “Men in Trees” will take over the Wednesday 10 p.m. slot.
Meanwhile, ABC opted against taking an aggressive stance against Fox’s “American Idol,” skedding instead the solid but not huge utility player “Just for Laughs,” an import from Canada, in back-to-back 8 and 8:30 p.m. slots on Tuesday.
The net will also bring back staple laffer “According to Jim” at 9 p.m., followed by “Carpoolers” — which is starting to earn some decent critical notice — and “Boston Legal” at 10.
Then there’s the new Oprah Winfrey-fronted reality skein “Oprah’s Big Give,” which bows in the Sunday 9 p.m. slot on March 2, bumping “Desperate Housewives” to 10 p.m. (that, in turn, replaces “Brothers and Sisters,” which will be in repeats at that point anyway). Sked will remain the same before then.
As for Mondays, as previously announced, “Dancing With the Stars” spinoff “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” premieres Jan. 7 with a 90-minute opener; “Notes From the Underbelly” will remain at 9:30 p.m. and “October Road” at 10. That sked will continue through January, as “Samantha Who?” takes a break.
“Samantha” will return to its 9 p.m. spot in February, once “Dance War” downsizes to an hour.
“Dancing With the Stars” returns in its normal Monday 8 p.m. spot on March 17, while “Samantha” moves down to 9:30 p.m. Also back that night: “The Bachelor.” Both “Underbelly” and “October Road” will have completed their runs by then.
Should a strike continue deep into spring, Bader and his team are already prepping future contingency schedules that include more reality shows and newsmagazines, he said.
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NBC will serve up the TV debut of “Quarterlife” on Monday, Feb. 18, at 9 p.m.
Skein will replace the Monday airing of “Deal or No Deal,” which will continue to run on Wednesdays. Lead-in for “Quarterlife” will be the new reality skein “Baby Borrowers,” which will debut the same night at 8.
“Quarterlife” is currently running as an Internet series on multiple websites. NBC picked up a broadcast window for the skein last month (Daily Variety, Nov. 19).
Series comes from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick.
(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)