ABC Moves 'Grey's Anatomy,' Challenges Thursday Night Competition

ABC wasn't thinking about any gray areas concerning this upfront. To the network, it's all black and white--especially for "Grey's Anatomy."

Making its boldest and biggest move, ABC is--in poker terms--all in, moving its blockbuster show, "Grey's Anatomy" to 9 p.m. Thursdays, into the virtual teeth of big-time network competition. "Grey's" will now go head to head against "CSI: Investigation."

"To have all hits on Sundays night doesn't help us," said Stephen McPherson, president, ABC Entertainment. "We wanted to be aggressive."

Indeed. ABC, the only network to make gains this season--up 3 percent in 18-49 viewers, up 8 percent in 18-49 when including the Super Bowl telecast--is now looking to sprint to the finish line.

It will add ten new shows to the fall schedule--and, in addition to "Grey's Anatomy," shake up its schedule on almost every night of the week. Its big anchors--"Desperate Housewives" and "Lost"--remain in their respective Sunday and Wednesday 9 p.m. anchor positions.

ABC will stagger its rollout for these new shows, which will give it the ability to intensely market a few select shows. Two years ago, ABC did just that with "Housewives" and "Lost," which revived the network.

One of the big surprises is keeping the under-performing "What about Brian" on the schedule in the 10 p.m. Monday time slot.

Tuesday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday at 8 p.m. will see "Dancing with the Stars" and the "Dancing" results show, respectively. The two-episode-a-week show moves from its Thursday/Friday night positions. McPherson believes these to be better nights--specifically for the results show. Friday's generally weak night of TV viewing didn't help the "Dancing" overall numbers.

At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, ABC will start up the new "Let's Rob Mick Jagger," a fanciful comedy about one fan's long obsession in stealing from someone famous--in this case the Rolling Stones' front-man. At 9:30, another new half-hour comedy, "Help Me Help You," stars Ted Danson as Dr. Bill Hoffman, a group therapy leader, who hides behind his celebrity bestselling author image.

On Wednesday, at 8 p.m. after the "Dancing" limited series run is completed, ABC will bring back "George Lopez" and "According to Jim," which will share a new night and time. At 10 p.m. ABC will start up "The Nine," a drama about what happens to nine people's lives after a bank robbery goes wrong.

ABC's "Lost" will get a run of seven consecutive new episodes in the fall. Then it will take a break, and ABC will launch action thriller "Day Break," starring Taye Diggs as Detective Brett Hopper, who has found out that one day he has been framed. He'll then relive the same day all over again. "Lost" will then come back in January/February and complete its run of new shows until the end of the season.

"Lost" will get fewer repeats--and ABC says it's worth it. "It's a more expensive schedule--but it's something that the audience demands," said McPherson. "'Lost' is a show that people love and make an appointment for. They get furious when it's in repeats... 'Lost' will still be profitable without going into repeats."

On its risky Thursday attempt, ABC will have three new shows surrounding "Grey's Anatomy"--two new comedies at 8 and 8:30, "Big Day" and "Notes from the Underbelly," and a new drama at 10 p.m.--"Six Degrees." "Big Day" focuses an entire season on one day in the life of a young couple--their wedding day. "Notes" is about a married couple about to have their first child--and all the comic complications that ensue.

On Friday, ABC will try a one-hour comedy at 8 p.m.--"Betty the Ugly," about an ordinary-looking girl who is possibly a little heavier than the thin beauties that surround her in her job as an assistant at a fashion magazine. At 9 p.m., a one-hour drama, "Men In Trees," stars Anne Heche as a relationship coach who can't seem to apply her advice to her own situations.

ABC may be saying goodbye to "Monday Night Football," but not to prime-time football. On Saturdays the network will bring "ABC Saturday Night College Football."

Last but not least, on Sunday--the day that started ABC's revival--"Brothers & Sisters" will be the lone new show, taking over "Grey's" 10 p.m. time slot. The show will see the return of Calista Flockhart to prime-time TV in an ensemble drama about a family's siblings and their secrets.

ABC's 2006-2007 Primetime Schedule

MONDAY
8:00 p.m. "Wife Swap"
9:00 p.m. "The Bachelor"/"Supernanny"
10:00 p.m. "What About Brian"

TUESDAY
8:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars"/"Set for the Rest of Your Life"
9:00 p.m. "Let's Rob Mick Jagger" (new comedy series)
9:30 p.m. "Help Me Help You" (new comedy series)
10:00 p.m. "Boston Legal"

WEDNESDAY
8:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars"/"George Lopez"/"According to Jim"
9:00 p.m. "Lost"
10:00 p.m. "The Nine" (new drama series)

THURSDAY
8:00 p.m. "Big Day" (new comedy series)
8:30 p.m. "Notes from the Underbelly" (new comedy series)
9:00 p.m. "Grey's Anatomy"
10:00 p.m. "Six Degrees" (new drama series)

FRIDAY
8:00 p.m. "Betty the Ugly" (new comedy series)
9:00 p.m. "Men in Trees" (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. "20/20"

SATURDAY
8:00 p.m. "ABC Saturday Night College Football"

SUNDAY
7:00 p.m. "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8:00 p.m. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
9:00 p.m. "Desperate Housewives"
10:00 p.m. "Brothers & Sisters" (new drama series)