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NBC unveils midseason schedule; gives early ’30 Rock’ renewal

NBC wants to bring the funny back to 10 p.m.

A year after it touted the return of comedy to the time period via “The Jay Leno Show,” Peacock will now bring yuks to the hour via “30 Rock” and “Outsourced.”

As part of the announcement, NBC also gave an early pickup to “30 Rock,” which is now confirmed through the 2011-2012 TV season.

Both “30 Rock” and “Outsourced” will move to the Thursday 10 p.m. time slot effective January 20, as part of NBC’s midseason makeover.

Under the new schedule, announced Monday, NBC will also split up its Wednesday night “Law & Order” duo — allowing “Law & Order: SVU” a return to the 10 p.m. slot. Newbie “Law & Order: Los Angeles” will shift to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (bumping “Parenthood,” in turn, to Mondays).

“The goal for our mid-season schedule was to keep us in original programming throughout the season and launch several promising new shows,” said Mitch Metcalf, NBC’s exec VP of program planning and scheduling. “We were looking to add more comedy to our schedule and we believe the best way to do so is to expand our already successful Thursday night.”

Metcalf said the decision to go with a three-hour Thursday laffer lineup made more sense — rather than attempting to open a new comedy block on Tuesday or Wednesday, where it would face difficult “American Idol” competition.

Instead, by shifting “30 Rock” at 10 p.m., the net can slide in newcomer “Perfect Couples.” And with “Outsourced” moving to 10:30, that opens up room for the return of “Parks and Recreation” behind “The Office.”

The networks have traditionally shied away from programming two half-hours at 10 p.m. As a matter of fact, no network has put comedies on their fall sked at 10 p.m. since 1992, when Fox aired two shows there on Sunday nights (back when it still aired shows in the hour).

That’s because, as conventional wisdom went, you risked losing a chunk of audience at 10:30 — leaving affiliates with a smaller lead-in to their 11 p.m. newscasts. But with viewing patterns having changed so dramatically in recent years — and with some cable nets finding success with half-hours at 10 p.m. — those old rules continue to go by the wayside. (And this move, after all, is a lot less controversial than stripping a talk show at 10 p.m.)

NBC’s midseason lineup will launch in two waves, in January and March. Here’s the grid:

8-9 p.m. – “Chuck”
9-10 p.m. – “THE CAPE” will premiere with a two-hour episode on Sunday, January 9 (9-11 p.m.). New episodes start in its regular time period on January 17 (9-10 p.m.)
10-11 p.m. – “HARRY’S LAW’ (beginning January 17)
9-10 p.m. – “The Event” (returns on February 28, 9-11 p.m.; resumes in its regular time slot March 7)
10-11 p.m. — “Parenthood” (debuts in this slot March 7 with all originals)

8-10 p.m. — “The Biggest Loser: Couples” (beginning January 4)
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood” (beginning January 4 for four episodes)
10-11 p.m. — “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (beginning February 8)

8-9 p.m. — “Minute to Win It” (beginning January 5)
9-10 p.m. –“Chase” (beginning January 12)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (originals beginning January 5 with two-hour episode, 9-11 p.m. ET)
9-10 p.m. – “AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT RESTAURANT” (beginning March 16)

THURSDAYS (all beginning January 20)
8-8:30 p.m. – “Community”
8:30-9 p.m. – “PERFECT COUPLES”
9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
10-10:30 p.m. – “30 Rock”
10:30-11 p.m. – “Outsourced”

8-9 p.m. — “Who Do You Think You Are?” (beginning January 21)
9-11 p.m. – “Dateline NBC” (beginning January 7)

7-8 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. – “The Marriage Ref” (beginning March 6)
9-11 p.m. – “The Celebrity Apprentice” (beginning March 6)

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