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
Here's the new lineup:
My Name Is Earl, The Office, Scrubs
. Could it get any better than that?
Well, I suppose it would be better if the competition were a little less brutal for
on ABC and
on CBS. This is, however, classic and aggressive counterprogramming. There's little chance
will do better than a distant third- for one thing,
many weeks is as sexy and funny a hospital farce as the wacky, giddy
. 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
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
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
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
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?)