NBC’s sked shuffle sees laughers nixed

Web concentrating on dramas

There’s almost nothing funny about NBC’s new midseason sked.

As part of a radical primetime overhaul announced Monday, the Peacock will reduce to just eight the number of sitcoms it airs each week, while three of its frosh hourlong skeins will be given new timeslots starting in January. Just two years ago, the network had 16 laffers on its skeds.

Hoping to boost the three dramas, NBC has distributed change-of-address forms to “Freaks and Geeks,” “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Third Watch.” Also, the midseason replacement “The Others” will join the lineup on Saturdays in February.

‘Freaks’ to Monday

Replacing the Monday night 8 p.m. comedy block is the critically acclaimed but low-rated DreamWorks comedy/drama “Freaks and Geeks,” which inherits the slot effective Jan. 10.

“Freaks and Geeks” debuted to promising numbers but quickly stumbled and is now NBC’s lowest-rated skein, averaging a 2.7 Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49 and 6.5 million viewers on Saturdays at 8 p.m.

“Freaks and Geeks” replaces “Suddenly Susan,” which NBC said will return at a later date, and “Veronica’s Closet,” which moves to Tuesdays at 9:30 beginning Jan. 4. That slot has been vacant since the demise of “The Mike O’Malley Show.”

Also on Mondays, the Warner Bros. drama “Third Watch” moves to 10 p.m., bouncing “Dateline NBC” back to 9 p.m.

‘Watch’ moves up

“Third Watch” has averaged 12.7 million viewers and a 4.6 rating among adults 18 to 49 on Sundays at 8 p.m. “Dateline NBC” will move up to 8 p.m. from 7 p.m. Sundays.

Exec producer John Wells said “Third Watch’s” heavy subject matter about emergency workers was better suited for the later time slot.

“It’s a tough time slot for this show on Sunday,” Wells said. “People are probably not as prepared to deal with this kind of emotion and melodrama and this kind of serious subject matter on Sunday nights.”

Programming for that 7 p.m. slot will be announced at a later date, although overruns from NBA games may preempt that slot more often than not anyway.

‘Victims’ moves

Meanwhile, Dick Wolf, who lobbied hard to get a 10 p.m. timeslot for “Special Victims Unit,” got his wish — sort of. The “Law & Order” spinoff will move to 10 p.m. Fridays, which has been empty since NBC got “Cold Feet” and canceled that new drama last month.

Wolf told Daily Variety he welcomed the move and hoped to attract loyal fans of “Homicide,” which occupied that Friday night slot until this year. The “Homicide” character of Detective Munch, played by Richard Belzer, now even appears on “Special Victims Unit.”

“I just want the show to be on for a long, long time,” Wolf said. “There’s a real possibility to be a long-term player on Friday nights. I think we have a wonderful promotional platform with “Law & Order” on Wednesday for the show every week.”

‘Others’ debut

Over on Saturday, the network’s supernatural-branded “Thrillogy” is back. The DreamWorks/NBC Studios paranormal drama “The Others” debuts at 10 p.m. on the night starting Feb. 5.

NBC will bump “The Pretender” and “Profiler” back an hour, to 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively, beginning Dec. 4. “World’s Most Amazing Videos” will stunt at 10 p.m. until the debut of “The Others.”

A program exec at a competing net said NBC’s moves make sense — to a point. “They’ve helped themselves on some nights, and they’ve hurt themselves on others,” the exec said, pointing to the move of “Third Watch” to Mondays as the Peacock’s smartest sked shift.

“Third” will face two other frosh dramas at 10 p.m.: CBS’ “Family Law,” which has turned into a modest hit, and ABC’s “Once and Again,” which will shift from Tuesday nights early next year.

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