NBC Takes A New Tack Just Before New Owners Take Over The Ship: Original Programming For Everyone?


In perhaps one last effort to kick-start its long-ailing prime-time schedule before new owner Comcast takes over, NBC is erasing the blackboard for this coming mid-season. There will be schedule changes on virtually every night of the week.

Here are a couple of highlights -- or mid-level lights, as the case may be:

-- NBC's underachieving serial drama, "The Event," will take a rest on Mondays at 9 p.m., to be replaced by "The Cape."

-- In January a new show from David E. Kelley, "Harry's Law," will have a go on Mondays at 10 p.m. Current Tuesday night's "Parenthood" will take over that time period in March.

-- The new show "Perfect Couples," about three young couples with differing personalities, goes on at 8:30 on Thursday, replacing "30 Rock." "Parks and Recreation" will get "Outsouced"'s slot at 9:30 on the same night.



-- After "Sunday Night Football" ends, that night will see new editions of "The Marriage Ref" at 8 and "Celebrity Apprentice" from 9 to 11.

The most daring move is putting two sitcoms in the Thursday 10 p.m. hour: "30 Rock" and "Outsourced." The 10 p.m. weekday time period is where virtually all networks have scheduled one-hour drama or reality programming. ("The Apprentice" had most recently been in this Thursday spot for NBC).

Why the desperation at 10 p.m.? Seems some NBCs local affiliate stations are actually suffering worst numbers than they did a year ago when the big "Jay Leno Show" experiment was on at 10 p.m.

But the new emphasis from all these changes, according to one NBC executive interviewed by the New York Times, is to perhaps market NBC in a new way come January: Throw as many original programs as possible on the air leading up to May, the final month of the season before the slower -- and less anxious -- summer season begins.

That's not a bad strategy. Increasingly viewers -- those with or without time-shifting machines - get upset trying to figure out when and where new episodes of series are running. Recently networks like ABC with "Lost" and Fox with "24" decided to keep viewers attached every week by running 13 to 17 weeks of nonstop original episodes to their season's respective conclusions.

Even in this fast-moving digital age where video and TV programming seems plentiful 24/7, urgency can pull viewers closer -- perhaps away from competitors.

Maybe the new owners will snicker, sensing the remaining NBC executives on this weary broadcast journey are throwing in everything they have as water continues to fill up the deck. Still others might say there are few alternatives: What else can they do? Call the Coast Guard!

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