NBC shuffles sitcoms

Sassa flexing programming muscles

NBC is moving “Mad About You” to Mondays at 9 p.m. and “3rd Rock From the Sun” to Tuesdays at 8 p.m. as part of a massive reshuffling of its Monday through Wednesday schedule, starting Dec. 14.

The scheduling changes mark the first significant programming decisions made by NBC’s newly installed entertainment president Scott Sassa.

“3rd Rock,” which had been struggling opposite “The Drew Carey Show” Wednesdays at 9 p.m., will now face off against the equally male-skewing trio of “King of the Hill” on Fox, “JAG” on CBS and “Home Improvement” on ABC.

“NewsRadio,” which had followed “3rd Rock” on Wednesdays, will now follow it Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m., with “Just Shoot Me” remaining at 9 p.m. The Monday sitcom “Will & Grace” will slide into the Tuesday 9:30 p.m. timeslot against ABC’s “Sports Night.”

On Mondays, “Caroline in the City,” which is trailing in fourth place in its 9 p.m. timeslot among young adults, is moving into the protected 8:30 p.m. timeslot against CBS’ “King of Queens,” the WB’s “7th Heaven” and Fox’s “Melrose Place.”

‘Mad’ on Monday

The costly sitcom “Mad About You,” which has been fading against tough Tuesday competition, will face off Monday at 9 p.m. versus Fox’s “Ally McBeal” and CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “Conrad Bloom” moves from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., where it will contend with CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom “Becker,” and “Suddenly Susan” stays at 8 p.m.

“Dateline” remains at 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday night will stay intact.

Oddly, NBC is not announcing any changes on Wednesday night, despite the shifting of its two Wednesday comedies to Tuesday. The Peacock will temporarily air repeats of “3rd Rock” in its old Wednesday 9 p.m. timeslot, followed by originals of Nathan Lane’s “Encore! Encore!”

‘Working’ partner needed

NBC sources say “Working,” which is off the schedule in December, will likely return in January on Wednesday nights, but it’s unclear what show NBC will pair with the Fred Savage workplace comedy.

NBC’s new lineup means the network will air three established, but not necessarily hit-status, shows from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and (for the time being) Wednesday. The frosh shows will air in the 9:30 p.m. slots.

The scheduling moves raised some eyebrows around town, as executives questioned whether all the shuffling would actually shore up NBC’s declining ratings fortunes.

NBC is currently placing third in its target adults 18-49 demographic on both Monday and Wednesday, and it has fallen back into second place on Tuesday after gaining dominance on that night last season.

One-night wonder

Without the strength of its regular Thursday lineup last week, NBC placed fourth for the week in total viewers and adults 25-54 and in third place in homes and adults 18-49. That weekly performance has added to the perception that NBC is a one-night network.

The new moves seem to focus the most on improving the weak Monday lineup, but it’s unclear how much “Mad About You” can help, and whether Tuesday will suffer even more.

“We know it’s ‘Mad About You’s’ last year, so why throw it up against CBS’ strongest sitcom?” asked Bill Croasdale, president at media buying firm, Western Intl. Media. “And ‘3rd Rock’ they’ve moved so many times, will people find it all over again? All these moves are just a stopgap. It’s musical chairs.”