NEW YORK (Adage.com) -- When Comcast Corp. finally closes its purchase of NBC Universal, it might want to scrutinize the facilities at flagship broadcast outlet NBC, where executives just performed the equivalent of rearranging the furniture.
In an eyebrow-raising maneuver that points to the instability of its prime-time schedule, NBC said it will reorganize its prime-time offerings on nearly every night of the week. What's more, the network said it intends to test the nontraditional move of running an hour of comedy at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, when most broadcast networks run dramas.
NBC opened the season vowing to invest heavily in new scripted drama and comedy, and there's no doubt that it has delivered on that promise. The challenge, however, is that few of its new programs have scored in the metrics that please advertisers, and that none has been a breakout performer on the order of last season's darlings, CBS's "NCIS: LA" or ABC's "Modern Family."
Indeed, of the top 20 shows among viewers 18 to 49 for the week ended Nov. 7, NBC only has two programs in the rankings, according to research from Barclays Capital: "Sunday Night Football," which will go off the air at the end of the NFL's season, and "The Office," a veteran show that is slated to see its lead actor leave.
To rejigger its chances, NBC is bringing on a slate of new and returning programs, changing time slots for "Law & Order: Los Angeles," "Chase," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Parenthood," and putting "The Event" on a brief hiatus. "The Event," a complex drama that centers on the discovery of aliens on Earth, was perhaps the network's most heavily promoted drama of the season.
All this comes as Comcast's purchase of a majority of NBC Universal is slated to close by the end of this year or sometime in early 2011.
Mondays could become confusing to fans of the shows that have run on NBC that night this season. While "Chuck" will remain at 8 p.m., NBC will debut "The Cape," a superhero drama, at 9 p.m., starting Jan. 17, then follow it at 10 p.m. with "Harry's Law," a drama starring Kathy Bates that has generated some buzz. NBC will move "Chase" from Mondays to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. starting Jan. 12. "The Event" will start again on March 7 in its regular 9 p.m. Monday slot, followed at 10 p.m. by "Parenthood," formerly a Tuesday show. ("Parenthood" will run four episodes on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. starting Jan. 4).
Tuesdays under the new schedule will largely comprise a two-hour showing of "Biggest Loser" at 8 p.m. followed by "Law & Order: Los Angeles" at 10 p.m.
Wednesdays will include returning reality show "Minute to Win It" at 8 p.m., starting January 5th, largely followed by "Chase" at 9 p.m. and "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m. NBC will run a reality show called "America's Next Great Restaurant" at 9 p.m. Wednesdays, starting March 16.
Thursdays will be devoted entirely to comedy. The 8 p.m. hour will include "Community" and a new entry, "Perfect Couples." The 9 p.m. hour will include "The Office" and the returning "Parks and Recreation." The 10 p.m. hour will feature "30 Rock" and "Outsourced."
Fridays will feature "Who Do You Think You Are" at 8 p.m followed by a two-hour "Dateline" at 9 p.m.
Sundays will feature an hour of "Dateline" at 7 p.m. Starting March 6, NBC will air the returning "The Marriage Ref" at 8 p.m. and "The Celebrity Apprentice" between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.