Timing for speech is Bush league

Press conference whacks nets' skeds

This article was updated at 8:33 p.m.

NEW YORK — Here’s a hint for President Bush: Don’t apply for a job as network scheduler after your political career ends. You also may want to forget Simon Cowell’s vote.

The networks were scratching their heads Monday after the White House asked the networks to carry a primetime press conference at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight.

If Bush was hoping for a boffo “American Idol” lead-in, he can forget it. Fox — clearly the most impacted — quickly decided to bump tonight’s live edition of “American Idol,” which normally airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m., to a taped version on Wednesday.

“When the President asks for time on the network, the network provides that time,” a Fox exec said.

The “American Idol” results show originally skedded for 8 p.m. Wednesday will now be seen Thursday at 8 p.m. — directly opposite CBS hit “Survivor” and one of the last original episodes of “Friends.”

The trouble doesn’t end there. Since Bush’s press conference is starting at 8:30 — no one in the TV biz can remember such an odd start time for a White House event — and isn’t expected to wrap until 9:15 p.m., Fox also decided to bump “24,” which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

This week’s episode of the Kiefer Sutherland starrer will now air Sunday at 9 p.m., against HBO’s hit “Sopranos.”

“What is Bush doing in the preceding half hour? It’s unbelievable,” one network exec said.

Not even network news execs could shed light on Bush’s motives for beginning on the half-hour, instead of at the usual 9 p.m. start time.

All the networks have carved out the 8:30-9:30 block to carry the presidential press conference, during which Bush is expected to talk about Iraq and attempt some damage control.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the nets get to see how some of their shows perform in other timeslots. Fox, for instance, will get to see how “Idol” does on Thursday nights and how “24” performs opposite Sunday night competish like “Alias” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

Fox drama “Tru Calling” will get a nice boost this week thanks to an unexpected “Idol” lead-in. “Tru” will move to 8:30 p.m. for the night to make room for the half-hour “Idol” recap show. (A repeat “Simpsons” will run at 9:30 p.m.)

Over at NBC, Peacock execs said they would air an original episode of “Whoopi” at 8 tonight as originally planned. However, the net will move the season finale of “Happy Family” from 8: 30 to April 20. Net will air a repeat of “Frasier” at 9:30 and a repeat of “Law & Order: SVU” at 10.

CBS will bump “Navy NCIS” and “The Guardian” and will air a repeat of “Still Standing” at 8 and a repeat of “King of Queens” at 9:30. “Judging Amy” will still air at 10.

Even ABC had to do some shuffling. Net had skedded back-to-back repeats of “8 Simple Rules” beginning at 8 p.m. Because the episodes were sequential, net said it would run a different repeat.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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