With the surprising summer success of Jay Mohr's Last Comic Standing, NBC has decided to put the show on its fall schedule, replacing Average Joe on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
That move will allow NBC to hold on to Average Joe for a midseason return, while keeping Last Comic on the air while it's hot. The program has been the summer's most popular reality show, averaging a 4.8 rating/13 share and 10.4 million viewers.
NBC also has set its premiere dates, with Fear Factor and new drama Hawaii launching out of the Olympics on Monday, Aug. 30, at 8 and 9, respectively. Hawaii will then settle into its regular time slot, Wednesday at 8, starting Sept. 1. The next Monday, LAX will premiere at 10.
Last Comic Standing, Father of the Pride, and Scrubs all will premiere on Tuesday, Aug. 31, at 8, 9 and 9:30. Law & Order: SVU kicks off its sixth season on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 10. The 15th season of Law & Order will begin Wednesday, Sept. 22.
West Wing will not premiere until Oct. 20, allowing NBC to avoid scheduled presidential debates and also to save episodes. West Wing has struggled in the ratings for the past two seasons. NBC Universal Television President Jeff Zucker told reporters that the administration of President Josiah Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, is likely coming to an end, although that doesn't necessarily indicate the show is ending.
Such a move would allow West Wing Executive Producer John Wells to rejigger the show's cast, a strategy that has worked well with ER, another Wells drama. This is the last year of NBC's contract with Warner Bros. for the show, although the network has an option for one more year.
NBC will unveil its new Thursday night Sept. 9, leading off with Joey at 8. The Apprentice will kick off season two that night at 9, leading into new drama Medical Investigation, premiering in ER's time slot at 10.
ER returns to the schedule Thursday, Sept. 23, at 10. Will & Grace will premiere its seventh season on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 8:30.
Medical Investigation will start in its regular time slot on Friday at 10 the following night, with the sixth season of Third Watch starting Friday, Sept. 17, at 9.
Finally, Saturday Night Live will host its third prime time Presidential Bash on election eve, Monday, Nov. 1, from 9:30 to 11. SNL produced similar shows in 1992 and 2000.