ABC Takes on Thursday Nights With 'Grey's Anatomy'

Programs Female-Friendly Fare in Former 'Monday Night Football' Slot

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC is throwing down the gauntlet on Thursday, moving "Grey's Anatomy" to the 9 p.m. time slot on the most lucrative night in TV.
'Grey's' will be up against NBC's big hope, 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.'
'Grey's' will be up against NBC's big hope, 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.'

A new Thursday lineup
The move signifies its confidence in the program, especially considering ABC dropped in two freshman comedies, "Big Day" and "Life from the Underbelly," at the 8 p.m. hour, and a new drama from "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams, "Six Degrees," at 10 p.m. 'Grey's' will be up against NBC's big hope, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," from "West Wing" producer Aaron Sorkin, while the two new Thursday comedies will go up against NBC's "My Name is Earl" and "The Office." (See both schedules here.)

The Walt Disney Co. network is keeping its strong "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday, adding in a new Calista Flockhart-staring drama "Brothers and Sisters" in 'Grey's' old time slot.

It also kept "Lost" on Wednesday at 9 p.m.; it will rotate the results episode of "Dancing With the Stars" with "George Lopez" and "According to Jim" in the 8 p.m. hour, and debut the drama "The Nine" at 10. "Lost," which repeats poorly due to its serial nature, will air about seven original episodes in the fall, then will drop off and be replaced by "Daybreak" until the spring, when a big chunk of "Lost" original episodes return.

"The audience is so demanding that we had to work into our schedules more and more original programming," said Stephen McPherson, president of entertainment at ABC.

Pulling in women
The network loses "Monday Night Football" this year and decided to substitute it with a female-friendly lineup: "Wife Swap" at 8, a combination of "The Bachelor" and "Supernanny" at 9 and "What About Brian" at 10. Keeping the "What About Brian," which was a late midseason replacement (and also from Mr. Abrams), could be considered a surprise, but network executives said it was brought back on its strength of attracting young women. "We dominated that night in women 18 to 34," Mr. McPherson said, noting he sees long-term potential in the show.

Tuesday will be a night stacked with new programming. After "Dancing with the Stars" runs in the fall, "Set for the Rest of Your Life" will debut, and two new comedies, "Let's Rob ..." and "Help Me Help You," share the 9 p.m. hour. "Boston Legal" returns at 10.

Friday night sees the new comedy "Betty the Ugly" at 8 p.m. and drama "Men in Trees" at 9 p.m. before long-running "20/20" at 10.

Failure of 'Commander in Chief'
Mr. McPherson cited last year's failure of "Commander in Chief" as "frustrating" and said predicting hits is near impossible.

"You never know where you're big hits are going to come from," he said. For example, "We didn't even announce 'Dancing With the Stars'" when it first debuted.
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