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November 10, 2008

ABC plans 'Private' after 'Grey’s'; 'Life' after 'Lost'

Private_practice_250_2 ABC has a very intriguing scheduling shakeup planned for early next year.

Sources say "Private Practice" will get a chance to shine behind the "Grey's Anatomy" mothership on Thursday nights at 10 p.m.

And the slightly trippy new time-travel drama “Life on Mars” will get a trial behind the seriously trippy (and possible time-travel drama) "Lost" on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.

The new pairings make sense. In fact, they make so much sense, some might wonder why the duos were ever apart.

When the "Grey's" spinoff was first announced, most assumed it would launch behind “Grey’s." But ABC initially wanted to try to spread the powerhouse brand to another night, and some suspected two hours from the same dramatic universe on Thursday might be a bit trying for fans. Plus, it kept the post-“Grey’s” slot free to try to launch other new shows with less brand recognition.

Now, with “Practice” having eroded in the ratings somewhat midweek, and the two medical dramas planning multi-episode crossover story lines for February sweeps, pairing the two shows for a Seattle Grace alums block seems appropriate.

And “Mars,” well obviously "Mars" launched in the fall and "Lost" airs in winter/spring (As previously announced, “Lost” is going into the “Practice” Wednesdays-at-9 p.m. slot in January). But the two seem like a potentially happy couple. “Life” is the more down-to-earth of the pair, yet the shows have some mutual fantastical elements.

The plans also make a full season order for "Mars" pretty likely. "Dirty Sexy Money" is thought to also have a good chance to continue, while "Eli Stone" and "Pushing Daisies" are considered long shots.

No word when this will be announced, or whether the scheduling will be billed as a temporary trial for the shows, or as their new regular time periods. ABC had no comment.

ABC has made some bold scheduling moves in the recent past. The network successfully launched three new dramas on Wednesday night last year and had “Grey’s Anatomy” fight titan “CSI" on Thursdays. Less successfully, the network experimented with a long winter hiatus one year for "Lost"and now the show runs every spring straight through without gaps or repeats.

UPDATE: Pixley's comment below makes a good point -- the move puts police procedural against procedural on Wednesdays ("Mars" against "CSI: NY" and "L&O") and medical drama vs. medical drama on Thursdays ("Practice" vs. "ER"). (Though saying that nothing has ever worked after "Lost" neglects to point out that nothing has ever really worked after "Grey's" either). ABC must be banking on the differences that go beyond genre -- are "Private" viewers the same as "ER" viewers? And are "Mars" viewers typical police procedural viewers? This isn't to insist that ABC's strategy will work, only that the similarities between the new pairings could lead to higher retention at 10 p.m. that overpowers the shows' similarities to competitors. My suspicion, and this is hardly going out on a limb, is the move will benefit "Practice" more than "Mars."

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