NBC rivals to bob and weave during Olympics

Gail Pennington
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)

The Winter Olympics dominate prime time for the next two weeks, but "Lost" isn't going anywhere. And "American Idol" certainly won't get out of the way of bobsled and luge.

With the games opening Friday night in Vancouver, British Columbia (7:30 p.m. on NBC), competing broadcast networks will side-step, benching some (but not all) shows for the duration.

CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler defines her network's strategy as "sort of a mixed bag between new shows and repeats," adding that the plan is "putting the shows out there, letting the fans come to the shows as they see fit, and whoever is going to watch the Olympics is going to watch them anyway."

Comedies especially are likely to go into reruns, even though February is a ratings sweeps month. Viewers will watch comedy repeats, the networks have learned, so CBS' Monday night sitcoms and ABC's Wednesday comedy lineup will be what the networks like to call "encores" for the next two weeks.

So-called procedural dramas, like the various editions of "CSI" and "NCIS" on CBS, will mostly be in reruns during the Olympics.

But ABC will air new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" next Thursday, opposite the men's figure skating finale. "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers and Sisters" will be first-run on two Sundays, Feb. 21 and 28, and "The Deep End" will be new through what ABC bills as its "finale" (not season finale) on Feb. 25.

"Lost," which began its final season Feb. 2 on ABC, will air straight through, Olympics or not, with a repeat of the previous week's episode scheduled at 8 p.m. Tuesday. With a "Lost" lead-in, ABC will also keep "The Forgotten" on the schedule this month, although possibly the goal is simply to burn off episodes.

Even though the Winter Olympics are heavy on figure skating, popular with young female viewers, the CW will air new episodes of "One Tree Hill" and "Life Unexpected" both Mondays during the Olympics. "Smallville" will also be new on Fridays.

Fox is a special case. "American Idol" is just now getting up to speed, and analysts expect the talent competition to beat the Olympics on at least a couple of nights.

"Idol" will reveal its Top 24 on Wednesday, with the first live performance show Feb. 23 followed by the first live results show Feb. 25. During the two weeks of the Olympics, "Idol" will fill eight of Fox's 20 hours of Monday-Friday prime time.

"Bones" and "Fringe" have already aired "winter finales" on Fox (both return April 1), and "House" will be in reruns during the Olympics. But time won't stop for "24," which began its new day on Jan. 17 and will air straight through. The new dramas "Human Target" and "Past Life" will also air first-run episodes.





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