Thursday will be fight night next fall

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The current television season hasn't ended, yet there is already one major battle brewing on the fall schedule--Thursday nights. The big three networks have all staked a claim on the night, so even if the new shows aren't worth watching, the behind-the-scenes fireworks and truth-spinning should be entertaining.

ABC laid down the gauntlet when it moved red-hot medical drama Grey's Anatomy to Thursday night at 9 p.m. The ascendant medical show will now go up against the forensic drama CSI and NBC's new Aaron Sorkin show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

The move could backfire, as it will break up the alphabet's powerful Sunday night duo, Grey's and Desperate Housewives. Maybe viewers accustomed to watching ABC on Sunday will stick around for the new post-Wisteria show Brothers and Sisters (not to be confused with the canceled Sons and Daughters), and maybe Grey's is so hot that rabid fans of Dr. McDreamy will follow him to his new night.

But ABC did a similar thing this season when they broke up Lost and Alias, moving the spy show to Thursdays and sliding Invasion in after Lost. The results weren't good: Alias tanked and Invasion is getting canned after one season.

CBS, which rules the Thursday 9 p.m. slot with CSI, stands to lose the most. CSI is still the number-one scripted drama on TV, but Grey's' is on the rise, so it will be interesting to see this head-to-head car wreck.

The heavily hyped Studio 60 is the dark horse. The show, a drama-comedy about the backstage goings-on at an SNL-type sketch comedy show, stars Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet and has been generating a considerable amount of buzz. Maybe this show is just different enough from the usual slew of medical/crime/cop dramas that it will capture an audience.

At 10 p.m. on Thursday, the stalwart medical drama ER will go up against James Woods' new "edgy lawyer" show, Shark, and CBS's Six Degrees, which is about six strangers who unknowingly impact each other in dramatic ways.

Even though the two shows are not going directly against each other, ER could lose some steam due to Grey's. How many medical shows can audiences watch in one night? NBC has a trick up it's doctor's smock to keep the show exciting-the network will air an unbroken run of all-new episodes (no reruns), after which the Paul Haggis midseason series The Black Donnellys will finish out the season.

At 8 p.m., NBC's My Name Is Earl and The Office hope to capitalize on the sputtering that CBS's Survivor has been doing this season. ABC will attempt to muster a challenge with Big Day, which sounds like 24 with a wedding instead of terrorists, and Notes From the Underbelly, which can be summed up in two words: baby sitcom.

Another skirmish looks like it's beginning to brew: Wednesday night, with Lost going up against 30 Rock, the Tina Fey-scripted SNL-parody sitcom. Who will win these battles? Hopefully, the audience.

As it stands now, the Thursday schedule looks like this:

8 p.m.
ABC: Big Day
CBS: Survivor
NBC: My Name Is Earl

8:30 p.m.
ABC: Notes From the Underbelly
NBC: The Office

9 p.m.
ABC: Grey's Anatomy
CBS: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
NBC: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

10 p.m.
ABC: Six Degrees
CBS: Shark
NBC: ER

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