TV shuffles schedules for war coverage. NBC moves entire ''Must-See'' Thursday lineup to Tuesday

By Gary Susman
March 21, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

In a time of war, we all have to make sacrifices, and in TV’s case, that means no new episodes of ”Friends” for at least five extra days. As the networks moved to accommodate the first full night of war on Thursday, NBC scrapped its entire ”Must-See” lineup, the linchpin of its weekly primetime schedule, moving new episodes of such shows as ”Friends” and ”Will & Grace” to next Tuesday and replacing them with reruns that could be pre-empted for war coverage.  Other networks took similar steps to replace their daytime entertainment programming with news, with ABC scratching its soap schedule (but putting Barbara Walters on ”The View” full time), and CBS handing over its daytime coverage of NCAA Basketball tournament play over to ESPN.

Big nighttime entertainment specials, notably, ABC’s airing of the Oscars on Sunday, are still going ahead as scheduled. NBC is still planning to air the Miss USA pageant on Monday. CBS is planning to reschedule the live ”Star Search” finale, which had picked two of the four winners Wednesday night before being pre-empted by news of the onset of war. (Fittingly, guest judge LeAnn Rimes entertained the studio audience by singing the national anthem, the New York Daily News reports.)

The repercussions of wartime TV schedule changes extend to the movie studios. Reuters reports that Paramount has already decided to delay the April 25 release of Meg Ryan’s drama ” Against the Ropes.” All the violence in the movie, in which Ryan plays real-life boxing manager Jackie Kallen, takes place on the canvas, but it’s not viewer sensitivities to the movie’s content that has the studio worried; rather, it’s the movie’s ad campaign, which depends heavily on TV commercials, that’s in jeopardy. ”The issue is, the advertising gets preempted, and you end up losing your message,” a Paramount spokesperson said. No word on when Ryan’s movie will get back in the ring.