NBC delays finales to cue Conan

Network hopes move will help O'Brien

Hoping to give “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” a solid premiere-week lead-in, NBC is pushing several season finales into June.

Three of the Peacock’s 10 p.m. players won’t end their seasons until the week of June 1, which is when O’Brien steps in to replace Jay Leno in the House That Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson Built.

“Medium” will air its season finale on Monday, June 1, followed by “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” on June 2 and “Law and Order” on June 3.

“We’ll give Conan the best launch possi ble during his premiere week,” said NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Ben Silverman.

NBC was able to push the shows into June thanks to some creative scheduling: “SVU” will be bumped a week because of a three-hour “Biggest Loser” finale, while “Medium” bowed late enough that the net had plenty of extra episodes. Only “Law and Order” will have to add an extra repeat in order to extend into the summer.

The postseason week of series finales is just part of the Peacock’s summer schedule strategy, which the net announced Thursday. NBC plans to launch an aggressive mix of original scripted fare, new and returning reality series and even a pair of two-part movies in order to keep the lights on during the summer months.

“We have to put our money where our mouth is and make a commitment to a 52-week schedule,” said NBC program planning/scheduling exec VP Mitch Metcalf. “The naysayers will say that scripted doesn’t work in summer, or that movies shouldn’t work on Sunday, but we can’t be static. We have to try new things.”

For starters, the U.S. return of international TV hit “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” will dominate NBC’s June lineup, airing four nights a week for most of the month.

The reality show, which first aired on ABC in 2003, will bow on June 1 with a two-hour opener at 8 p.m. Skein will continue to air for an hour each Monday through Thursday until Wednesday, June 24, when it ends with a one-hour finale.

Beyond “I’m a Celebrity,” NBC’s summer alternative skeins include the returning “America’s Got Talent,” which will air Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9 p.m. starting June 23 and 24. Newcomer “Great American Road Trip,” from BBC Worldwide, runs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning July 1.

Also in June, NBC also plans to launch three original scripted dramas, all of which are budget-minded international co-productions:

n “The Listener,” which comes from Shaftesbury Films, CTV and Fox Intl. Channels in addition to NBC, will air Thursdays at 10 p.m. starting June 4.

n “Merlin,” from the BBC, FremantleMedia and Shine TV, will air Sundays at 8 p.m. starting June 21, when it bows with a two-hour opener. “Merlin” will also air for two hours on June 28 before settling into a regular hour the following week.

n “The Philanthropist,” from Universal Media Studios and its U.K.-based Carnival Films subsid (as well as Original Media and the Levinson/Fontana Co.), will air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. starting June 24. Peacock hopes to give “The Philanthropist,” which was originally set to air this season, a boost by airing it behind “America’s Got Talent.”

Elsewhere on NBC’s summer sked, the net has two movies, both from RHI Entertainment: “Meteor” will air at 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 7 and 14. And “The Storm” will run at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 19 and 26.

Also, the Peacock run of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” which now runs first on USA Network, will return on Mondays at 9 p.m. starting June 8.

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