NBC will reshape Thursday into all-comedy night and move its two "Law & Order" dramas as part of a midseason shake-up.
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The network is shifting "30 Rock" and the freshman series "Outsourced" to the final hour of prime time starting Jan. 20. The rest of the night's lineup, starting at 8 p.m. ET, will include "Community," newcomer "Perfect Couples," "The Office" and returning series "Parks and Recreation."
"We were looking to add more comedy to our schedule and we believe the best way to do so is to expand our already successful Thursday night," NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf said in a statement Monday.
Tina Fey's "30 Rock" has been renewed through the 2011-12 season, NBC also announced.
The novel approach of comedy in a spot traditionally held by dramas could help fight a 10 p.m. ratings weakness that has beset the major broadcast networks this season. Some of the blame goes to viewers' increasing use of the time slot to catch up with DVR-captured programs from earlier in the evening.
But another bold NBC experiment, putting Jay Leno in the 10 p.m. spot last season, proved a resounding flop.
Hourlong dramas aren't extinct at 10 p.m. In January, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is moving up an hour, to 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, from its current 9 p.m. ET Wednesday home. In February, "Law & Order: Los Angeles," which now airs on Wednesday, will shift to 10 p.m. ET Tuesday.
"Parenthood," after returning at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday, Jan. 4, will move to 10 p.m. ET Monday starting March 7, after NBC tries out newcomer drama "Harry's Law," starring Kathy Bates, in the slot beginning Jan. 17.
Besides beefing up NBC's comedy quotient, the revamped schedule provides original programming through the rest of the season with new and returning series, Metcalf said.
Broadcast networks used to rely on series reruns to pad out the season, but that gave cable and other media alternatives the chance to steal away viewers. So the networks have turned to bringing in more new shows or giving returning series a midseason start.
For NBC, that means the midseason returns of "The Biggest Loser: Couples," "Minute to Win It," "The Marriage Ref," "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "The Celebrity Apprentice," as well as "Parks and Recreation."
Besides the relationship sitcom "Perfect Couples" and "Harry's Law," NBC's new midseason entries are the drama series "The Cape" and the reality show "America's Next Great Restaurant."