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“The Office”: 60 to 30 to 0

Andyangela_118In strike-tinted hindsight, one of the more interesting programming decisions of the 2007-08 season was NBC’s choice to start off “The Office” with four hour-long episodes.

Putting aside the critical debate over the 60-minute segs (some adored them, others thought they were bloated — though I expect they’ll hold up quite nicely once they’re divided up into half-hour segments for future airings), the effect was to rob “The Office” of a month’s worth of first-run content pending a writers’ strike that, of course, is no longer pending. With this week’s shutdown of the show’s production, instead of six weeks of “Office” remaining, there are only two. It’s like TV’s groundhog saw its shadow or something.

Still, the programming gimmick may yet pay dividends for NBC. It helped “The Office” establish a presence at its new 9 p.m. Thursday Schrute_farms_118timeslot, with the series solidly in the top 20 among viewers 18-49 despite running against “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI.” Meanwhile, “The Office” also lends itself well to repeat viewing, compared with those programs that will head straight for DVD-land or oblivion once they’ve aired their first-run fare.

For fans of the series, the thought of having to wait untold weeks or months for the next great “Office” episode is a major strike casualty. At the same time, for fans of the series, seeing an “Office” episode just once is never enough.

— Jon Weisman

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