ABC protects ‘Lost’

Shift ensures the show won't have to battle 'American Idol'

ABC is moving “Lost” out of the way of the “American Idol” juggernaut.

Alphabet on Tuesday unveiled a January sked that has the spooky Wednesday drama moving back an hour to 10 p.m. when it returns Feb. 7. Shift — the third timeslot for the show in as many years — ensures the skein won’t have to battle the Fox behemoth.

A year ago, “Lost” scored boffo numbers at 9 p.m. during the fall but took a notable ratings hit once “Idol” returned in January. Skein has since held steady in the ratings, but ABC execs clearly don’t want to risk further slippage.

Net’s affils should be happy with the shift. With “Lost” at 10 p.m., ABC will likely deliver local stations their best new lead-in numbers for the slot in years.

In addition to shielding “Lost” from “Idol,” ABC is also protecting it from rising CBS drama “Criminal Minds” and NBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” which moves into the 9 p.m. Wednesday slot next month.

As for what will compete against “Idol,” ABC has decided that laughter — and games — are the best medicine. Net has slotted its laffer “Knights of Prosperity” Wednesdays at 9 p.m., directly against the “Idol” results show. It’ll be paired at 9:30 with another new comedy, “In Case of Emergency.”

Laffer hour is set to debut Jan. 3, a month before “Day Break” was set to end its run. ABC News programming will fill the 10 p.m. Wednesday slot in January before “Lost” returns.

“Day Break” will either be yanked after its Dec. 27 broadcast or moved to another night. No word on what will happen with the remaining five episodes of the skein, if ABC doesn’t move the show to a new night.

ABC will round out its Wednesday lineup with new episodes of “George Lopez” and “According to Jim” from 8-9 p.m. Net will double-pump “Jim” for a few weeks starting Jan. 3, with “George” bowing Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.

On Tuesdays, William Shatner is expected to take on Simon Cowell and Co. as quizzer “Show Me the Money” shifts to 8 p.m. on Jan. 2. It’ll be paired with “Big Day” and “Help Me Help You” at 9 and 9:30, respectively.

“Help Me” may eventually be replaced by newcomer “Notes From the Underbelly,” though ABC didn’t announce any firm plans for that show.

ABC’s Sunday, Monday and Thursday skeds are unchanged for now. At some point, the net will have to make room for the return of “Dancing With the Stars” in March, prompting another round of sked shuffles.

On Fridays, ABC will continue to vamp with repeats. Saturday will be a mix of movies and specials.

Still on the bench: six unaired episodes of “The Nine” and “Six Degrees,” as well as midseason contenders “October Road,” “The Traveler” and “Masters of Sci-Fi.”