Celebrity version to return Jan. 3 in 'must-see' slot

“The Apprentice” will be back next year with a “celebrity” cast — and a familiar timeslot.

NBC said the Donald Trump skein will return Thursday, Jan. 3, at 9 p.m. “Apprentice” was at its ratings zenith when it aired Thursdays at 9 a few years ago.

Of course, back then, NBC had given up its rep as the classy comedy network, and its traditional Thursday dominance was fading. With no real comedy bench, it made sense to try reality on the night.

Now, however, NBC has established a credible comedy presence on the night, with skeins such as “The Office” and “30 Rock.”

But with “The Office” now in repeats until after a WGA strike is settled, NBC brass have decided to use the prime slot to pump the Donald. If a strike is settled quickly, it’s possible “The Apprentice” will move.

NBC also has original episodes of “Scrubs” to run, as well as repeats of “The Office.”

As for the cast of the celeb edition, NBC has lined up names such as Gene Simmons, Vincent Pastore and Stephen Baldwin.

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