Our long national nightmare is over: Parks and Recreation finally has a return date — and the best news of all is that the show will be getting the time slot it's deserved all along. NBC today is announcing that Vulture poster child Parks will kick off its third season Thursday, January 20 at 9:30 p.m., immediately following The Office. Clearly Peacock schedulers read Vulture: We speculated last month that the network might bring Parks back as part of a supersize Thursday-night comedy lineup that spread the laughs into the 10 p.m. hour, and that's just what NBC is planning. And leading the comedy charge into the late time slot: 30 Rock, which will shift to 10 p.m. in January — and has also just gotten an early renewal for the 2011–12 season. The Thursday changes are part of a massive NBC mid-season schedule shift just announced; read on for full details.
The most interesting shift to the Peacock lineup is its move to an all-comedy Thursday block. It's something the network mulled last spring but ultimately deemed too risky to try in the fall, when it also had to devote resources to launching a number of new shows. Key anchors Community and The Office will remain at 8 and 9 p.m., but everything else is changing. Replacing 30 Rock at 8:30 is newcomer Perfect Couples; Parks, as mentioned, slides into the 9:30 slot — where it can take full advantage of all the hype likely to surround Steve Carell's final episodes on The Office. Putting 30 Rock at 10 p.m. actually makes a lot of sense: Its fiercely loyal audience will follow it anywhere, and neither ABC nor CBS has particularly strong dramas in the 10 p.m. hour. FX has also proven that viewers don't mind watching comedy in the later hour (not to mention the millions of folks who use their DVRs to shift comedies into the later time slot already). At 10:30, NBC will air Outsourced; we're so happy about the Parks return, however, that we won't make any cracks about that show's quality.
The rest of NBC's mid-season schedule is filled with so many changes, it's best to go night-by-night:
• Comic-book drama The Cape is January's new Event: It takes over the latter's 9 p.m. Monday slot starting January 10 (following a two-hour bow on January 9; the January 10 airing will actually be a repeat of the previous night's episode). On January 17, new David E. Kelley drama Harry's Law replaces Chase in the 10 p.m. hour. The Event returns to the Monday 9 p.m. slot on February 28 with a two-hour debut, and then on March 7, Parenthood shifts to the 10 p.m.
• Tuesdays continue to be home to The Biggest Loser, with Law & Order: L.A. moving to 10 p.m. on the night (relocated from Wednesday).
• Wednesday kick of with game show Minute to Win It at 8 p.m. (beginning January 5), with Chase relocating to the night in a new 9 p.m. slot. Law & Order: SVU shifts back an hour to 10 p.m. On March 16, NBC currently plans to replace Chase with new reality series America's Next Great Restaurant.
• Lisa Kudrow's reality show Who Do You Think You Are? returns for a second season on Fridays at eight starting January 21. Dateline remains from 9 to 11 p.m.
• Jerry Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref will take on The Amazing Race Sundays at eight beginning March 6. On the same date Celebrity Apprentice returns from 9 to 11 p.m.
Here's the full NBC mid-season schedule:
8-9 p.m. - “Chuck”
9-10 p.m. - “THE CAPE” will premiere with a two-hour episode on Sunday, January 9 (9-11 p.m.). New episodes start in its regular time period on January 17 (9-10 p.m.)
10-11 p.m. - “HARRY’S LAW’ (beginning January 17)
9-10 p.m. - “The Event” (returns on February 28, 9-11 p.m.; resumes in its regular time slot March 7)
10-11 p.m. -- “Parenthood” (debuts in this slot March 7 with all originals)
8-10 p.m. -- “The Biggest Loser: Couples” (beginning January 4)
10-11 p.m. - “Parenthood” (beginning January 4 for four episodes)
10-11 p.m. -- “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (beginning February 8)
8-9 p.m. -- “Minute to Win It” (beginning January 5)
9-10 p.m. -“Chase” (beginning January 12)
10-11 p.m. - “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (originals beginning January 5 with two-hour episode, 9-11 p.m. ET)
9-10 p.m. - “AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT RESTAURANT” (beginning March 16)
THURSDAYS (all beginning January 20)
8-8:30 p.m. - “Community”
8:30-9 p.m. - “PERFECT COUPLES”
9-9:30 p.m. - “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. - “Parks and Recreation”
10-10:30 p.m. - “30 Rock”
10:30-11 p.m. - “Outsourced”
8-9 p.m. -- “Who Do You Think You Are?” (beginning January 21)
9-11 p.m. - “Dateline NBC” (beginning January 7)
7-8 p.m. - “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. - “The Marriage Ref” (beginning March 6)
9-11 p.m. - “The Celebrity Apprentice” (beginning March 6)