NBC, floundering in third place in the ratings, kicked another of its new shows overboard today. Twenty Good Years, the strangely laugh-free sitcom starring John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor, has been yanked from the schedule -- though, Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports, the network may bring it back later to burn off some of the nine or 10 unaired episodes. And the game show Deal Or No Deal, where ratings have been slipping since it went to three nights a week (can you say Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) is being cut back to two.
Meanwhile, two veteran NBC shows being held back for mid-season are making an early return. Scrubs will be back on Thursdays beginning Nov. 30, while Medium shows up on Wednesdays with a special two-hour episode on Nov. 15.
Last and probably least, the Saturday Night Live-themed sitcom 30 Rock will move to Thursdays, which means NBC will once again have a two-hour comedy bloc from 8 to 10 that night, just like the old days of Must-See TV. Well, except without Cheers or Seinfeld or Friends. I'm a big fan of 30 Rock, but hundreds of millions of Americans disagree; its ratings started out mediocre and have declined from there. My Name Is Earl, Scrubs and The Office -- the rest of the bloc -- pull respectable ratings at best.
That's NBC's attempt to dusting off one of its old gimmicks on Nov. 16 -- "super-sizing" episodes of My Name Is Earl, The Office and 30 Rock to 40 minutes apiece -- is doomed to fail. When you've got a powerhouse like Friends, pulling 30 million viewers, the "super-size" approach can keep them around an extra few minutes to disrupt enemy ratings. When your audience is less than a third of that, all you're going to do is irritate the daylights out of the people who have TiVo or other digital video recorders. But I guess NBC, lush with excess viewers, can afford that.