NBC's Thursdays once again 'Rock'-solid
NBC airs the season finale of "The Office" Thursday.
It's also the week of the network upfronts, when the new fall schedule is revealed to advertisers, raising the question of whether this lineup will remain stable (all four shows have been renewed). A great deal of the network's success relies on the answer, since Thursday has long been a source of pride, challenges and revenue.
Starting in the fall of 1984, NBC launched a Thursday comedy lineup that was to set a very high standard. "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Cheers" and "Night Court" spent three years together, refuting talk that the sitcom was dead and creating an expectation for a two-hour comedy block that proved hard to re-create.
By 1995, "Friends" had moved into the 8 p.m. (ET) slot, with "Seinfeld" at 9 p.m. The shows in between shifted around, but this arrangement lasted for three seasons.
"Friends" stuck around at 8 until the end of the 2003-2004 season, and while its 9 p.m. companion shifted -- from "Seinfeld" to "Frasier" to "Will & Grace," the two anchor slots of the night remained strong in the ratings -- but again, the bits in between changed a lot.
In recent seasons, NBC has seen its fortunes decline from those heady days, but the value of the Thursday lineup as a showcase for advertising new movies being released over the weekend has not diminished.
During the 2000s, NBC shuffled many comedies in and out and even reality shows "The Apprentice" and "The Celebrity Apprentice," in search of that magic combination.
Now the network has settled on a lineup that, if not a ratings generator on the level of CBS' Monday comedy block, does well and gets kudos from critics. The addition of the comedy-reality show "The Marriage Ref" at 10 p.m. has also worked out favorably.
"Although not a ratings blockbuster from 8 to 9," NBC entertainment chief Angela Bromstad says, "we feel that we have four shows that pair up with one another. They're compatible; they're critically acclaimed; they're audience favorites. So there's a real core audience there. That part, the stability part, we feel good about.
"There's no glaring stinker in there."