NBC sets 'ER' finale, cuts 'Knight Rider' order
“ER” will conclude its 15-season run with a two-hour finale in the middle of March sweeps, while “The Office” has secured the plum post-Super Bowl slot.Those are among the latest scheduling moves announced by NBC, which revealed the rest of its midseason plans Wednesday. Net also quietly cut its episodic order on “Knight Rider,” which will end the season early — on Feb. 25. NBC had picked up a full season of “Knight Rider,” but the show’s ratings haven’t improved. As a result, the Peacock’s “Knight Rider” season order has been trimmed from 22 to 17 episodes. Net stresses that “Knight Rider” isn’t canceled — but the downsized order isn’t a good sign for the remake. Meanwhile, with “ER” retiring, NBC has given the 10 p.m. slot to newcomer “Kings.” “ER” will say farewell with a two-hour sendoff on March 12 at 9 p.m. “It made sense to end the show in sweeps, and establish a great transition for ‘Kings,’ ” said NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf. “It’s tough to replace a show like ‘ER,’ but ‘Kings’ has the quality that the Thursday at 10 p.m. time period demands.” The Peacock will premiere “Kings,” a modern-day sudser loosely based on the story of King David and starring Ian McShane, with a two-hour episode March 19. Series will start regular runs at 10 p.m. Thursdays starting March 26. NBC also has skedded its four-hour event mini “XIII” for Feb. 8 and Feb. 15. Mini stars Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff. Meanwhile, the network announced “Medium” will see its season bow on Feb. 2. It will run at 10 p.m. Mondays, as expected, following “Chuck” and “Heroes.” Latter two skeins will return Feb. 2 with original episodes. Original episodes of “Life,” meanwhile, will return Feb. 4 in the Wednesday 9 p.m. slot. NBC additionally announced a March 1 return date for “Celebrity Apprentice,” which will kick off with a two-hour Sunday night special. “The two-hour ‘Apprentice’ allows us to establish a toehold on the night,” Metcalf said. “It’s historically difficult to program a night in the winter and spring after football. This run of ‘Apprentice’ fits perfectly after we get out of January and February, and serves what’s traditionally a tough night to program.” Metcalf said it wasn’t hard to convince “Apprentice” producers Mark Burnett and Donald Trump to expand the show — “We have a lot of great material that ends up on the cutting room floor,” Metcalf noted. NBC will air two-hour episodes of “Dateline NBC” on Sundays at 7 p.m. for the time being, although there’s a chance that a reality show may wind up in the 8 p.m. slot. Peacock is also still waiting to announce its plans in the Wednesday at 8 p.m. slot post-“Knight Rider.” Not scheduled were the bows of the “Untitled Amy Poehler Project” and “The Philanthropist.” Metcalf said NBC is still giving both shows time to percolate, and that both could still wind up on the sked this season. As for “The Office’s” post-Super Bowl berth, decision supersedes the original plan to pair both “The Office” and its then-planned spinoff in the slot. Instead, “The Office” will simply air by itself for an hour. “This will enable us to take the show to the next level,” Metcalf said. “It’s doing incredibly well, but we hope a whole new audience can find it. Comedy has a pretty good track record after the Super Bowl.” NBC, which last aired the Super Bowl in 1998, previously skedded special episodes of laffers such as “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Friends” in the spot. But nets have gone more dramatic with the slot in recent years, as Fox aired “House” in the slot this past year, while CBS programmed “Criminal Minds” there in 2007.