The good news for Joey is that it won't go up against American Idol on Thursday nights. The bad news for Joey is that won't go up against anybody.
Not for a while, anyway.
With NBC staggering across the November sweeps finish line, the network began December by looking ahead to January, and announcing long-anticipated schedule changes that will find My Name Is Earl and The Office on Thursdays, and Joey and The Apprentice on the bench.
Fox, meanwhile, dealt with its own lowly sweeps results in an NBC-ian way: Avoiding the discussion and starting a new one.
As such, Fox's chief talking point was American Idol. Ending speculation that the blockbuster franchise was on the move--with the results show possibly headed for Thursdays--the network declared Idol was staying put on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The show's first scheduled air date is Jan. 17.
For their parts, CBS, ABC, and UPN had nice Novembers, which each chose to discuss and analyze at length.
According to CBS, it was the most watched network in November among viewers of all ages, as well as 18- to 49-year-old ones. But the matter of which network won the all-important young-adult demographic was open to interpretation. CBS claimed it beat ABC by 16,000 viewers; ABC, choosing to round to the nearest decimal, as is tradition, claimed it tied CBS. In doing so, the formerly spelled-out ABC declared its first such sweeps win in more than five years.
Uncontested were stats that had NBC finishing a distant third in the demo and Fox falling to fourth.
In terms of eyeball pairs, CBS shows averaged 14.6 million for the month, followed by ABC (11.7 million), NBC (9.6 million) and Fox (7.7 million). NBC was the biggest loser--down 11 percent from a year ago.
Among the netlets, UPN said it edged the WB in total viewers (3.7 million to 3.6 million), and in demographically desirable ones aged 18 to 49. As its fall has gone, so has its November: UPN benefited from steady work from America's Next Top Model and Everybody Hates Chris, and improved numbers from Veronica Mars.
NBC will be looking for improved numbers come January. That's when Operation Hide Joey goes into effect.
Starting Jan. 5, Will & Grace will slide into Joey's 8 p.m., Thursday slot. The new sitcom Four Kings will debut at 8:30 p.m. Former Tuesday night residents My Name Is Earl and The Office will hold down the 9-10 p.m. hour, formerly occupied by Donald Trump's Apprentice.
The moves will allow the network, said NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly in a statement that added insult to Joey's injury, to "bring back a block of quality comedy to Thursday nights."
Although Joey seems canceled, it isn't. The sitcom and The Apprentice will return after NBC's Winter Olympics coverage ends in late February, the network promised. The network did not promise to which night the shows will return.
In its second season, Joey is the weakest link in NBC's weak Thursday. The Matt LeBlanc-led Friends spinoff is averaging 7.5 million viewers--off 65 percent from what its storied ancestor averaged in its final year.
During its winter hibernation, Joey will live on via Most Outrageous TV Moments, a clip show featuring "hilarious" outtakes from NBC shows. One outtake not likely to make the cut: Amy Grant's reaction when she finds out Most Outrageous TV Moments is taking up an hour's worth of real estate on Friday nights--and Three Wishes isn't. The inspirational reality series also is not part of NBC's January plans. Or possibly its February, March and April plans. Although previously pegged for a full season run, the show could see its final air date in December.