ABC’s ‘Lost’ Lands
Show Gets Thursday Slot Opposite ‘CSI’
ABC made headlines last year by moving its sophomore hit “Grey’s Anatomy” to Thursday, opposite CBS’ heavy-hitter drama “CSI.”
Next month, the network will attempt a similar maneuver—only now the deck is stacked more in its favor.
Starting Jan. 31, ABC has scheduled the highly anticipated fourth season of "Lost" for Thursdays at 9 p.m., the slot currently occupied by “Grey’s.”
Such a move normally would be much riskier, since “Grey’s” is higher-rated than “Lost” and any show in its slot has to face “CSI” and NBC’s “The Office.”
But with “Grey’s” and “CSI” going into repeats due to the writers strike, and “The Office” being replaced with the less ratings-certain “Celebrity Apprentice,” ABC can afford to put “Lost” into the slot on a guest visa.
“It’s an incredibly important time period for us,” said Jeff Bader, ABC’s executive VP of scheduling. “‘Lost’ is obviously the most important of our shows in our back pocket. There’s a huge opportunity there.”
When the strike is resolved, if original episodes of “Grey’s” become available to air before “Lost” has competed its run, the action drama will shift to 10 p.m.
The plan is the latest in a series of dramatic scheduling plays by ABC.
Moving “Grey’s” to Thursdays paid off. Slating three freshman shows on Wednesday nights this fall (“Pushing Daisies,” “Private Practice” and “Dirty Sexy Money”) was considered highly unusual, yet ABC conquered the night (until some recent ratings slippage put CBS in the lead).
The only major schedule play that hasn’t worked out for ABC was slating a 13-week hiatus for “Lost” last year, a move that happened to coincide with the show hitting a creative nadir.
The network had planned to bring back the serialized drama after the first of the year and run the entire season straight through, a la “24.” But the writers strike left ABC with a partial season and a Catch-22 dilemma: Bring back “Lost” for another brief stint and then a hiatus like last year, or make fans wait more than a year for it to return next fall.
With “24,” Fox opted to wait until the writers strike is resolved. With “Lost,” ABC decided to move forward—despite objections in the press from the show’s executive producers.
Mr. Bader said the network always intended for “Lost” to return. “We were never discussing not having those episodes air,” he said.
ABC also announced premiere dates for power-businesswoman ensemble drama “Cashmere Mafia” (Wednesday at 10 p.m. starting Jan. 9), legal drama “Eli Stone” (Thursday at 10 p.m. starting Jan. 31) and reality show “Oprah’s Big Give” (Sunday at 9 p.m. starting March 2).
ABC was the last major broadcast network to announce its winter schedule, at last lending clarity to the competitive playing field.
For instance, Mr. Bader noted that “Dancing With the Stars” might benefit on Tuesday from not going against originals of Fox’s top-rated “House.”
Regardless of the strike, the overriding rule of early-year scheduling still stands: Everybody keeps their best shows away from Fox’s “American Idol.”