Finally, NBC is giving us what we've been asking for: a two-hour block of cutting-edge network comedy on Thursday. Just like in the old days, except in this new lineup, which kicks in November 30, there are no howling dogs like The Single Guy, Union Square, Veronica's Closet, etc.

Here's the new lineup: My Name Is Earl, The Office, Scrubs and 30 Rock. Could it get any better than that?

Well, I suppose it would be better if the competition were a little less brutal for Scrubs than Grey's Anatomy on ABC and CSI on CBS. This is, however, classic and aggressive counterprogramming. There's little chance Scrubs will do better than a distant third- for one thing, Grey's many weeks is as sexy and funny a hospital farce as the wacky, giddy Scrubs. But this lineup sends a strong signal that NBC is serious about Thursdays, a night the network used to own on the strength of its signature comedies. Or should I say NBC is being seriously funny, to borrow CBS's catch-phrase for its own comedy block on Mondays (which up to now was the best consecutive two hours of comedy during the week, by default).

NBC's new, improved Thursday gets an early start the week before Thanksgiving, when "super-sized" 40-minute episodes of Earl, Office and 30 Rock air on November 16. Then, the week after Thanksgiving, NBC relaunches a comedy night that may not live up to the ratings glories that defined the network for two decades, from the explosion of The Cosby Show in 1984 to the final curtain of Friends in 2004. But it will do. It will have to do.

(The odd show out, as it was when it was introduced earlier this month, is the buddy comedy Twenty Good Years. NBC's press release says the Wednesday time period currently occupied by 30 Rock and Twenty Good Years, which was not even mentioned in the release, will be filled with a variety of specials. Given last week's corporate announcement that NBC is turning away from scripted comedies and dramas at 8 pm/ET, expect a reality or game show before long. No doubt another edition of either Deal or No Deal or 1 vs 100. But let's leave the griping about that eventuality for another day. For now, let's be glad NBC is, for once, doing the right thing. Our only question: What took them so long?)