Here’s Fox’s new midseason 2011 schedule

After years of pondering such a move, Fox has finally shifted “American Idol” to Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Scheduling shift immediately puts Fox into the Thursday night mix – considered the most important night of the week for advertisers. Move allows Fox to keep “Glee” as is on Tuesday nights, rather than disrupt that key player’s position on the sked.

Fox had come close in the past to announcing a Wednesday-Thursday “Idol” sked. But the network ultimately decided not to mess with success.

Until now. Fox entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly and alternative topper Mike Darnell said they started pondering the switch to a Wednesday-Thursday schedule after CBS bumped “Survivor” off Thursdays in favor of comedy.

“We like the excitement factor of this already being a ‘reset ‘ year for ‘Idol,’” Reilly said. “It’s a transitional time for the show. It’s going to have a new freshness to it. So given all of those factors, we decided to do it now.”

With no reality show in the Thursday 8 p.m. slot, it was only a matter of time until someone stepped in to fill the void. In the case of “Idol,” Fox threatens to change the dynamic of the night just months after CBS altered the landscape by moving “The Big Bang Theory” to the night.

“We’ve been trying to get a foothold there forever,” Darnell said. “The only moves that work on Thursday are big moves,” he added – noting past big shifts to the night, including “Big Bang Theory,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “CSI” and “Survivor.”

“8 p.m. was not looking so great any more,” Darnell added. “This was our opportunity. Here’s a moment where we can steal the spotlight on Thursday.”

This isn’t the first time “Idol” has run on Thursday any way; Fox – which isn’t shy about adding extra hours of “Idol” across its schedule – has occasionally aired special editions of the competish on the night.

Meanwhile, In moving “Idol’s” results show to Thursday, Fox will now shift cult fave “Fringe” to Friday – a move that led to some outcry in the fan community.

Reilly touted that loyal audience – and hefty DVR usage for “Fringe” – in explaining the move.

“It’s hard to imagine that the loyal ‘Fringe’ audience will jump ship when it changes nights,” he said. “If it does anywhere near what it’s been doing on Thursday, than we’ll have landed a huge trade-up on Fridays.”

But Reilly then also added a dose of reality: Because Fox only programs 15 hours a week, it can’t afford to ignore Friday nights.

“Friday has been a bit of a revolving door, and it’s been a place where shows have gone to die,” he admitted. “We’ve struggled on Fridays even as we’ve been strong elsewhere… this is not the first step to ‘Fringe’s’ cancellation. As long as the fans keep watching the show it will stay.”

As for “Glee,” the midseason sked reps a change in plans; Fox had nonetheless previously promised to move “Glee” back to a 9 p.m. slot in midseason. Given some of the show’s adult-themed content, the show’s producers were more comfortable with the later hour.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that plan: “Glee” blossomed into a mega-hit on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

“It exceeded everyone’s expectations at 8,” Reilly said. “It’s been the linchpin of creating a successful night for us. It’s an appointment show at 8, and one doesn’t need to move nights in the middle of the season.”

“Glee” is still on tap to receive the biggest series platform of the year: the plum spot behind the Super Bowl.

Because of the decision to move “Idol,” the revised midseason sked bears little similarity to what was announced in May. Ideally, networks wouldn’t announce midseason skeds – but sales departments say they’re necessary to book ad time, even if it’s no secret that these announcements always change by January.

“Idol” will bow on Wednesday, Jan. 19 with a two-hour premiere, and then air at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 26. Show will briefly be paired with “Human Target,” but will go with two-hour episodes starting Feb. 16. The Wednesday “Idol” will then collapse to 90 minutes on April 6, with “Breaking In” at 9:30 p.m. (“Human Target” will air back to back episodes on Wednesday, Jan. 5 and Jan. 12.)

On Thursdays, “Million Dollar Money Drop” will keep the 8 p.m. slot warm for “Idol” until Jan. 20, when the show premieres on that night. “Idol” will serve as a lead-in to “Bones,” which shifts to 9 p.m. That kicks out “Fringe,” which moves to Fridays at 9 p.m. starting Jan. 28 (behind “Kitchen Nightmares”).

Fox’s “House”/”Lie to Me” combo continues on Mondays from Jan. 17 to Feb. 7, when new Shawn Ryan entry “The Chicago Code” bows at 9 p.m. behind “House.”

And on Tuesdays, while “Glee” stays at 8 p.m., “Million Dollar Money Drop” will run at 9 p.m. for the month of January. On Feb. 8, “Raising Hope” returns at 9 p.m., paired with newbie “Mixed Signals” at 9:30.

Saturdays remain the same, while Sundays will make room for new animated laffer “Bob’s Burgers,” which will air at 8;30 p.m. behind “The Simpsons.” The regular Sunday lineup will consist of “Simpsons” repeats at 7 p.m., followed by “American Dad,” “The Simpsons” originals, “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show.”

Fox, meanwhile, confirmed that it won’t order any additional episodes of comedy “Running Wilde” and comedic actioner “The Good Guys,” effectively ending those shows’ runs.

Here’s the full Fox midseason sked, after the jump:

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