Move to 9 on Thursdays would be bold
Between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI,” the Thursday 9 o’clock hour is already one that’s responsible for a lot of TiVo use.But what if another popular DVR draw, “The Office,” joins the party too? It could happen next fall if NBC makes an aggressive move that would put its hottest comedy — currently airing at 8:30 p.m. — in the timeslot that once inhabited “Seinfeld,” “Cheers” and “Frasier.” Both tonight and next Thursday, “The Office” will extend well into the 9 o’clock half-hour with “super-sized” episodes, giving Peacock programmers a chance to see how the single-camera workplace comedy fares in tougher waters prior to announcing the net’s fall sked May 14. As it is right now, NBC is competitive in the opening hour of Thursday with “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” but then drops off sharply at 9 with “30 Rock” and “Scrubs.” One schedule scenario that would strengthen the comedy block as a whole would be for the net to place its best new comedy prospect in the 8:30 slot behind “Earl,” and then shift “The Office” to 9. “30 Rock” or a new show could go at 9:30. It’s a roll of the dice, but the timing is right. In its third season, “The Office” is averaging a 4.1 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 (roughly 5.4 million viewers in this age bracket), putting it on par with Fox’s “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and, among all comedies, behind only CBS’ “Two and a Half Men.” “Earl” and “The Office” aired in the 9 o’clock Thursday hour a year ago at this time, but that was before ABC made its own bold move months later by sending “Grey’s Anatomy” there. This season, the medical drama has become TV’s No. 1 scripted series and regularly beats “CSI,” but both shows are in the top 10. The addition of “The Office” to the mix would make it a tough three-way choice for a lot of viewers, but each series is distinct. And we’ve seen examples in recent years of multiple shows working in the same timeslot (i.e., “Survivor” and “Friends” for a few years earlier this decade). It would be an especially tough choice for adults 18-34, as the shows each rank among the season’s top dozen in this age group: “Grey’s” at No. 3, “CSI” at No. 10 and “The Office” at No. 12. NBC could always shift “The Office” back to 8:30 if it takes too much of a ratings hit at 9, but it’s worth the risk. If it is to reclaim its four-laffer “Must-See” status on Thursday, the first step is having “The Office” clock in at a new time.