Once upon a time, a multi-camera comedy about a group of young single friends, the core of them living across the hall from each other in an apartment building, aired Thursdays at 8 PM and was the biggest show on television. Will that happen again? Is The Big Bang Theory the new Friends? While the nerdy geniuses from Big Bang seem light years away from the cool and sexy bunch on the hit NBC comedy, the two shows have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Both are ensemble comedies largely set at the two apartments across from each other where the main character live. A guy from one of the apartments starts dating a girl from the other. Both shows have catchy title songs. And now, they both share the Thursday 8PM time slot. Just how ballsy was CBS’ decision to launch a comedy block at 8 PM anchored by Big Bang? The last time the network tried that was 45 years ago with Gilligan’s Island at 8 PM.
There has always been an invisible segregation on the TV schedule. For instance, Thursday has always been NBC’s comedy night, Monday has been CBS’. Will viewers follow Big Bang if it leaves sheltered existence on CBS’ established comedy night and ventures into hostile territory? CBS already has a solid track record in gaining ground on Thursday: It was the first network to undermine NBC’s dominance on the night when it moved Survivor and CSI there nine years ago. And Big Bang already is the highest-rated scripted series on television. But it became No.1 thanks to airing behind Two and a Half Men this season. Its originals hover above a 5 rating in adults 18-49, but when it aired as an anchor at 9 PM recently, it dropped to a 4.6 rating. Even at that level, Big Bang would probably be the highest rated series on Thursday night but I’m sure CBS didn’t go through all this trouble to get only a marginal improvement over long-time Thursday anchor Survivor. I’m sure CBS is hoping for a big ratings bang; I’m sure it is hoping for a new Friends.