NBC to change the rules on scheduling sitcoms
Can you laugh after 10 p.m.?
NBC hopes so. In an unusual move — for broadcast TV anyway — NBC is going to program comedies in the 10 p.m. hour Thursday nights. Starting Jan. 20, NBC will run "30 Rock" and "Outsourced" 10-to-11 p.m. as part of a three-hour comedy block.
The general rule of thumb has been that the 10 p.m. hour is better served by running hour-long shows. That's why it is always home to either dramas or news magazines. The last time a network tried situation comedies in that hour was in 1991 when ABC had "Anything But Love" and "Good & Evil" in that slot.
Part of that rationale was that having two half-hour shows in the 10 p.m. hour would increase the likliehood of viewers changing channels and hurting the late local news at 11. Also, since news tends to be bleak, the networks have opted for more serious fare in that hour.
Of course, a lot has happened in those 20 years. Cable has exploded, and some cable channels have even managed to have success going for laughs after 10, including HBO, which runs "Entourage" and "Hung" there.
Also, with the proliferation of DVRs, time periods are not as relevant. While it is still important to have a consistent schedule, rules that have been in place from an era when most people watched can probably be tinkered with a little.
To be sure, NBC did try for laughs in that hour with Jay Leno's prime-time show, but the jury is still out on whether that comedy was intentional.
— Joe Flint
Photo: "30 Rock." Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC.