Wonder why, four weeks into the new TV season, there are almost as many reruns on Wednesday night as on Saturday -- a night on which all of the networks have formally given up on original scripted programming?
When NBC unveiled its new prime-time lineup to advertisers at Radio City Music Hall last May, it promised advertisers it would keep "The West Wing" in the Wednesday 9 p.m. time slot. A couple days later, when CBS trotted out its new prime-time slate at Carnegie Hall, it announced that its 9 p.m. Wednesday hour would consist of two comedies, "King of Queens" and the new "Center of the Universe," marking John Goodman's much-ballyhooed return to sitcoms.
Yet since the official start of the TV season on Sept. 20, NBC has been airing "Law & Order" reruns at 9 p.m. Wednesdays -- except the first Wednesday of the season, when it aired back-to-back original "Law & Orders" from 9 to 11 p.m. Meanwhile, CBS changed course, plugging the hole with a "Dr. Phil" special during premiere week, and more recently with reruns of some "CSI" or another. Both networks vow that starting this week, they'll bring us the Wednesday 9 o'clock shows they promised.
The two networks' 9 p.m. series are the victims of the two networks' 10 p.m. series. CBS is trying to take down NBC's venerable "Law & Order" with the latest clone of its procedural crime drama factory, "CSI."
Naturally, each network wants to give its 10 p.m. show the biggest possible lead-in audience. NBC felt that would be better accomplished at 9 p.m. with "Law & Order," even in repeats, than with original episodes of "The West Wing." This is reasonable, given that last season, while "The West Wing" was not as bad as some critics had anticipated without Aaron Sorkin at the helm, it was a ratings sinkhole. Meanwhile, CBS's new "Center of the Universe" is just plain bad, the network has had trouble launching a comedy block on Wednesday night, and we've seen that followers of "CSI" flock to reruns in large numbers.
Meanwhile, Fox has been airing "Bernie Mac" reruns on Wednesday nights at 9:30 since the start of the TV season. That's because the network debuted "Method & Red," which was supposed to air in that half-hour, back in the summer and had canceled it by the time the season officially started in September. Clearly, Fox has some work to do on its new, groundbreaking 52-week-a-year schedule.