Thursday Night Is Where Programmers Want To Play

Out of the TV baseball playoffs and into the storm of the November sweeps and the rest of the season, comes the real game for TV programmers. The real meeting place looks to be on Thursday night.

NBC could finally shake things up on that night--much to the relief of media executives who had rolled their collective eyes after sitting through the Peacock network's upfront programming presentation last May. That's when NBC announced it was doing nothing to change its programming lineup--all this after the network got pancaked into a fourth-place spot in the adults 18-49 rating race last season.

Now with the network quaking in its boots that its hopeful Tuesday night rookie, "My Name is Earl," would be looking square in the eye of a major storm come January--that of Fox's return of the heavyweight, "American Idol"--NBC is looking to move the show out of harm's way, to Thursday night. But not so fast. Fox may make a preemptive strike itself.



Fox could be looking at a little Thursday night action for "Idol"--moving its Wednesday results show--all to grab some of that high-priced movie marketing money. Not to be outdone about Thursdays--and going with the herd instinct--now comes word ABC is mulling a Thursday night slot for the big return of "Dancing With the Stars," last summer's big hit.

CBS probably thought it would own Thursday for some time when it finally killed the NBC beast for that night. But these days every time period is fair game. CBS could be vulnerable now that Thursday night hits like "Survivor" have dropped a bit.

NBC has the most to lose. With "Earl" as one of its few lone future hopes in returning the network to some past glory, NBC is loath to set out "Earl" as a young doe in a field of angry hunters. But if "Idol" moves, NBC could be free. Of course, all hell will break lose if, say, "Idol" runs Tuesday and Thursday, out of its current Tuesday- Wednesday time slot.

Still, it depends who blinks first. About Thursday nights, Fox's Preston Beckman told The Hollywood Reporter: "Everyone feels they can go in and make some noise."

But who will have the loudest pipes?

"Idol"? "Survivor"? "CSI"? Perhaps even "ER" will look to save some face.

No doubt ABC is looking to form a beachhead as well on Thursdays, now that it has conquered Sundays (with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy) and Wednesdays (with "Lost").

The betting, though, is that no one will want to make a serious move if anyone hears Fox warming up "Idol" in the rehearsal room doing scales.

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