In midseason form: 'Lost' anchors plum Thurs. slot

Deep bench keeps ABC fresh in Q1

ABC is making another bold move on Thursday night, launching its hit drama "Lost" in the most valuable piece of primetime real estate: Thursday at 9 p.m.

The eight produced episodes of the action-adventure series will begin airing Jan. 31 against NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice."

Meanwhile, NBC will premiere its acquired Web drama "Quarterlife" on Feb. 18, following the debut of the new reality series "Baby Borrowers." The drama about six twentysomethings will air in the Monday 9 p.m. slot, replacing "Deal or No Deal."

ABC scheduling chief Jeff Bader said the decision to move "Lost" from Wednesday night — where it had run since its premiere in 2005 — was prompted by the network's desire to keep its dominance in the high-profile Thursday 9 p.m. hour during the strike when the slot's regular occupant, "Grey's Anatomy," is in repeats. The move is reminiscent of ABC's decision last year to transplant "Grey's" from Sunday to Thursday.

"It's an incredibly important time slot, and 'Lost' is an incredibly important show," Bader said. "It seemed like a great opportunity for 'Lost.' "

"Grey's" will continue to air in its Thursday 9 p.m. slot in January, with the medical drama's last original episode Jan. 3 leading into the premiere of the new "Sex and the City"-flavored drama "Cashmere Mafia." "Cashmere" will then move to its regular Wednesday 10 p.m. slot, with freshman dramedy "Big Shots" returning to the Thursday 10 p.m. slot for its last three original episodes.

Landing the cushy post-"Lost" Thursday 10 p.m. slot is the midseason legal drama "Eli Stone," which also premieres Jan. 31.

"It's light and funny — not a hard show to follow 'Lost' — that hopefully will have the broad male appeal that 'Lost' has," Bader said.

ABC's previous attempt to launch a new drama behind "Lost" with the critically praised "Invasion" was unsuccessful in part because "Invasion" was deemed as intense as its lead-in.

In its strike-affected midseason schedule, ABC also is shaking things up on its signature Sunday night, where new reality series "Oprah's Big Give" will take over the 9 p.m. hour, with "Desperate Housewives" sliding to 10 p.m.

"Repeats of 'Desperate Housewives' do OK, but they don't win the time period," Bader said. " 'Oprah' is tonally an ideal fit with 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.' "

ABC will rest most of its serialized one-hours that generally don't repeat well after they run out of fresh episodes because of the strike. The group includes "Brothers & Sisters," "Ugly Betty" and freshman "Private Practice," "Pushing Daisies" and "Dirty Sexy Money."

Staying on are "Desperate" and "Grey's," with reruns of the latter airing Friday or Thursday 8 p.m. (ABC is mulling running a repeat of "Lost" at Thursday 8 p.m. leading into a new "Lost," a strategy that worked well for the serialized drama on Wednesdays.)

For the second time this season, ABC will completely revamp its Wednesday night lineup. With promising freshman dramas "Daisies," "Practice" and "Dirty" benched until the end of the strike, the network is keeping the night female-centered with midseason reality series "Wife Swap" and "Supernanny" leading into "Cashmere." When "Cashmere" ends its run, it will be replaced Feb. 27 by "Men in Trees," which has 10 original episodes in the can.

New additions to ABC's schedule also include the "Dancing With the Stars" spinoff "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann," which will fill in for "Dancing" on Monday until the hit reality series comes back in March, as well as returning series "According to Jim" and "Just for Laughs."

With its deep bench, ABC is set for the first quarter with a mostly first-run schedule.

As for the second quarter, "I'm hoping the strike ends, so we go back to our original plans," Bader said.