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FROM THE TELEVISION CRITICS ASSN.

NBC hopes schedule shuffle give it a ratings lift

The No.3 network plans a post-Olympic move of 'Law & Order' and other programs.

January 23, 2006|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

NBC, hoping to keep ratings momentum as it skates out of the upcoming Winter Olympics, is planning a flurry of changes to its third-ranked prime-time schedule starting late next month.

Donald Trump's "The Apprentice," which has lately faded on Thursdays, will move to 9 p.m. Mondays starting Feb. 27, the network announced Sunday. It will replace the drama "Las Vegas," which is headed to 9 p.m. Fridays, followed at 10 by "Conviction," a new drama about assistant district attorneys from "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf.

"Law & Order," an NBC mainstay for years, is moving up one hour to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, in the tough time slot dominated by ABC's "Lost." The 10 p.m. perch will go to "Heist," a burglary caper from "The Bourne Identity" director Doug Liman.

And with "The Office" wrapping its season at the end of March (star Steve Carell is shooting a new feature), NBC will put the new comedy "Teachers" into the 9:30 p.m. Thursday slot starting April 6. The network has no immediate plans to return "Joey" to the schedule.

Kevin Reilly, NBC entertainment president, told reporters at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. meeting in Pasadena that despite the ratings woes this season, the network is seeing signs of recovery. But, he added, "we've got a long way to go."

The Friday moves seem particularly aggressive, given that many TV executives consider it a slow night for television, with relatively few young-adult viewers available to watch.

NBC has fizzled this winter with "The Book of Daniel," a controversial Friday drama that Reilly admitted is not delivering "the numbers we were hoping for."

But Reilly said he's not giving up on the night. "We're going to stop giving the competition a free ride" on Fridays, he said.

Looking ahead, Reilly also announced that "The West Wing" will bow out with a series finale on May 14, while "Will & Grace" will bid adieu May 18.

NBC has also ordered 22 episodes each for next season of its two emerging comedy successes, "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office."

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