"Office" scores touchdown on NBC's midseason lineup

Thu Dec 4, 2008 12:47pm EST
 
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - NBC's hit comedy "The Office" will get the coveted post-Super Bowl spot next year, while the new drama "Kings" will take over for "ER" on Thursday nights after the long-running medical drama airs its series finale.

The post-Bowl position is considered the most valuable piece of programing real estate on television, exposing a series to tens of millions of viewers. NBC will air a special one-hour episode of its Emmy-winning comedy after the game concludes February 1.

"'The Office' is a perfect fit for after the Super Bowl," NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf said. "It's going to be a hilariously funny hour, and I think people will be in the mood to laugh after the big game."

With NBC's ratings severely depressed this fall, the Super Bowl telecast presents a valuable opportunity to bring viewers back to the network. NBC had the choice of several options for the post-Bowl spot, including launching "Kings," relaunching the new volume of "Heroes" or premiering the new edition of "Celebrity Apprentice."

"You just don't want something that's too heavy, and some of the best performances after the Super Bowl have been comedies," Metcalf said. "This could bring a whole new audience to the show."

END OF ROAD FOR 'RIDER'

The decision was part of a flurry of NBC scheduling announcements made Wednesday, including an early season-finale date for "Knight Rider." The action drama will conclude February 25, with the show halting production after 17 episodes. The network has said it plans to overhaul the show, with format changes still to air in the coming weeks, but the episode cutback suggests there is little expectation that a revamp will reverse the Wednesday night drama's ratings decline.

NBC also said it will expand "Apprentice" to two hours, with episodes airing Sunday nights beginning March 1 at 9 p.m.   Continued...