After Leno: Hashing out the NBC schedule

jay-leno-slash-320.jpgIn announcing that "The Jay Leno Show" would move out of primetime in mid-February, NBC set out a huge task for itself. A couple of huge tasks, actually.

We'll leave it to network executives to get Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon to agree on a reworked late-night schedule that includes a half-hour of Jay at 11:35 p.m., "The Tonight Show" at 12:05 a.m. and "Late Night" at 1:05. But the network also has to figure out how to fill out its schedule at 10 o'clock, and do so without a ton of new material in the pipeline.

NBC Universal TV chairman Jeff Gaspin told reporters Sunday (Jan. 10) that no decisions have been made yet and he'd be working on the schedule until the last possible second -- which, as a practical matter, is around the time the Winter Olympics start on Feb. 12. The network will want to have a new lineup to promote during the games.

That's where we come in. We'd like to offer our two cents about how the schedule will look come March 1. It won't necessarily be pretty (expect a lot more "Dateline"), but it will allow the network to limp through the rest of the season.

- On Mondays, "Chuck" and "Parenthood" will probably keep their spots at 8 and 9 p.m. ET. In the short term, you might also see "Trauma" return -- Gaspin said Sunday that the remaining six episodes of the show "absolutely" would make it on the air. A reality show like the Lisa Kudrow-produced genealogy series "Who Do You Think You Are?" could also fit there.

- "Law & Order: SVU" is "obviously a contender to move back to 10 o'clock," NBC Entertainment president Angela Bromstad says. One possibility is moving it back to its former Tuesday-night home after "The Biggest Loser." If NBC opts to move it to 10 p.m. Wednesday, plugging in "Dateline" (or perhaps "Law & Order: Criminal Intent imports from USA) opposite "American Idol" at 9 would help protect "Mercy" in the less competitive 8 p.m. spot.

- If NBC wants to go all-scripted on Thursday, a potential option is the David Tennant pilot "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer." But I hope that doesn't happen. The pilot has a novel premise -- Tennant plays a lawyer who suffers panic attacks and coaches clients to represent themselves in court -- and good actors involved (Jeffrey Tambor, Jerry O'Connell, Jane Curtin), and I'd like to see it on NBC someday. But the history of pilots that were rushed onto the air is not a very good one, and I'd hate to see the promise of the show get squandered. ("Criminal Intent" could also be an option.)

- On Fridays, "Law & Order" could easily slide from 8 to 10 p.m., with either a two-hour "Dateline" or -- and this would be a nice gift to fans, if not exactly moving the ratings needle -- "Friday Night Lights" at 8 and "Dateline" at 9. NBC will have "FNL" available starting March 1, which fits the transition timeframe perfectly, but if it's trying to goose ratings immediately, it might hold the show until summer.

What do you think NBC should do in the short term?

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Related:

'The Jay Leno Show' leaves primetime
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Photo credit: NBC
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