NBC Overhauls Prime Time, Benching ‘Community’ and ‘Prime Suspect’
By BILL CARTER
Facing problems on almost every night of the week, NBC announced wholesale changes to its prime-time schedule Monday, which were focused mainly on strengthening two nights, Mondays and Thursdays.
The most noticeable alteration is the move of two comedies off Thursday nights, the low-rated but much praised “Community” and the struggling new comedy “Whitney.”
“Community” is being benched for the moment – NBC vows it is not canceled and is promising the sit-com will be off the air for only a brief time. “Whitney” is being relegated to Wednesdays at 8, a treacherous time period, having not held up in the best comedy time period NBC owns, Thursdays at 9:30 after “The Office.”
That slot will go, as many have urged on NBC, to the new comedy “Up All Night,” which has shown promise this season on Wednesdays. It is also a single-camera filmed comedy as are all the other NBC comedies on Thursday. “Whitney,” a three-camera taped comedy, had stood out as somewhat alien on the night.
To replace “Community,” NBC is bringing back its multi-award-winning “30 Rock,” which has been off the air to accommodate the pregnancy of its star, Tina Fey.
NBC will finish off Thursday by introducing a new drama, “The Firm,” based on the John Grisham novel, hoping that it will prove more appealing than “Prime Suspect,” which has barely moved the ratings needle at 10 p.m. NBC executives say that the cop drama, which stars Maria Bello, is not canceled.
Mondays will be NBC biggest effort to build some ratings momentum. The network will bring back its hit singing competition from last season, “The Voice” for two hours, followed at 10 p.m. by the drama that generated the most excitement from critics last spring, “Smash,” about the creation of a Broadway musical. (Both shows will get a sendoff after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.)
NBC has another reality series called “Fashion Star,” about the creation of a new fashion line, which will move into Tuesdays starting in March. It will replace “Parenthood” at 10 p.m. after that show finishes its season Feb. 28. (That well-received drama will definitely be back next season.)
On Wednesdays a new comedy “Are You There, Chelsea,” based on the book by the talk show host, Chelsea Handler, will follow “Whitney” at 8:30. NBC will move its new newsmagazine “Rock Center,” to Wednesdays at 9. “Law & Order SVU” will remain at 10.
NBC will insert the return of the reality entry “Who Do You Think You Are?” (about celebrities tracing family roots) on Fridays at 8.
Sundays, after the run of potent N.F.L. games, will be completely revamped. “Dateline NBC” will add a second weekly edition at 7 followed by the drama “Harry’s Law” at 8 and a new season of “Celebrity Apprentice” at 9.
CBS also announced two minor changes to its mostly stable – and successful – lineup. A new comedy, “Rob,” which stars Ron Schneider as a bachelor who takes the plunge by marrying into a Mexican-American family, will replace “Rules of Engagement” on Thursdays at 8:30. And a new season of “Undercover Boss” will fill in for “The Amazing Race” until that reality show returns in the spring.