NBC Picks Up ‘Earl,’ ‘Office’ for Full Season, Announces Midseason Changes

Jan 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

NBC has given full-season pickups to two recently transplanted Thursday night comedies, “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office.”

Both shows have 22-episode orders for the 2006-07 season, NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said Sunday during the network’s executive session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. He noted the pickups reflect his belief that “Stability is the first step toward recovery.”

While most of February will be dominated by the network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, March and April will see a number of schedule changes, Mr. Reilly said.

The next installment of “The Apprentice” moves to Monday at 9 p.m. (ET) starting Feb. 27. The game show “Deal or No Deal” returns for a five-day run at 8 p.m., also starting Feb. 27, settling into its regular Monday time slot March 6.

“Law & Order” is moving from its 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot to 9 p.m. starting March 22, where it will compete head to head with ABC’s “Lost.” That makes room for the network’s new drama “Heist” at 10 p.m.

With the changes to Monday, “Las Vegas” moves to Fridays at 9 p.m. March 3, reflecting Mr. Reilly’s vow that NBC will “stop giving the competition a free pass on Friday night.” On the same night, “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf’s new series “Conviction,” exploring the lives of young assistant district attorneys, premieres at 10 p.m.

“This is not a ‘Law & Order,'” Mr. Reilly said, describing the series as “sexy and character-based.”

With its star Steve Carell working on a feature film, Mr. Reilly said “The Office” will take a break from the Thursday lineup starting April 6, after the comedy “Teachers” debuts March 30 at 9:30 p.m. “Teachers,” which was originally developed as a single-camera comedy, has been redeveloped as a multi-camera sitcom, with veteran director James Burrows directing the pilot.

“The West Wing” will have its series finale Sunday, May 14, at 8 p.m. At 7 p.m. NBC will run a one-hour retrospective of the Emmy-winning series.

The decision to end the show was not based on the sudden death of “West Wing” star John Spencer, Mr. Reilly said: “It’s no secret ratings have been tough.”

“Will & Grace” will also come to an end this spring. The show caps its eight-year run with a one-hour retrospective and a one-hour finale Thursday, May 18, starting at 8 p.m.

The move leaves the “Friends” spinoff “Joey” off the schedule, at least for the time being, Mr. Reilly said.

“We don’t have any plans for ‘Joey’ right now,” he said, noting that NBC is “asking ‘Scrubs’ to toe the line” with double runs on Thursdays. “We’ll see how the schedule settles in and reassess,” he said of “Joey.”

Like its competitors ABC and CBS, Mr. Reilly said the network is getting into the English-language telenovela business with help from sister company Telemundo, which will produce a version of its novela “Body of Desire” for NBC, Mr. Reilly said, noting that it may run more than once a week during the summer.

The summer months will also include the debut of the drama “Windfall,” which follows a group of friends after they win the lottery, and two reality series: “Treasure Hunters,” and the returning “Last Comic Standing.”

It was a mistake to put “Comic” on last fall, Mr. Reilly said, noting that it worked best as a summer show.

Calls for an advertiser boycott by groups such as the American Family Association of NBC’s Friday night drama “The Book of Daniel” did not have a direct impact on ad sales for the series, Mr. Reilly said. “You let the audience vote,” he said, noting that if the show attracts more viewers, advertisers would be less likely to be concerned about controversy.

Fall 2006 was also on Mr. Reilly’s mind when he announced he has picked up the family crime serial “The Black Donnellys” from “Million Dollar Baby” co-writers Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco. The thriller drama “Kidnapped” and “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes-of-Hollywood drama, “Studio 7,” are already contenders for this fall.

In other news at NBC’s TCA press tour day, NBC Universal Olympics coordinating producer Molly Solomon announced the debut of a one-hour figure skating report show called “Olympic Ice.” The show will run on NBC Universal’s USA cable network daily during the Olympics at 6 p.m. and will cover solely figure skating, which she called the most popular sport at the Games.

Fox’s “American Idol” will not affect the Olympics, said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics. Calling “Idol” a “very, very strong series,” Mr. Ebersol said that since the Winter Olympics occur only once every four years, there is a “uniqueness” to them.