NBC may not be anywhere near the top, but that hasn’t stopped the network from keeping much of its Thursday-night schedule intact for fall 2011. “30 Rock” was renewed for next season some months ago. Last week, NBC gave the official pickup notice to “The Office,” “Community” and “Parks & Recreation.” That leaves two new series, “Outsourced” and “Perfect Couples,” dangling.
It’s interesting to note that while “Perfect Couples” has a dismal chance of returning for season two, it does seem to be part of a trend. No sooner did NBC introduce “Perfect Couples,” about two married couples and a single friend adjusting to adulthood, Fox debuted “Traffic Light,” based on pretty much the same premise. Neither is terribly good or terribly popular. Not to be outdone, ABC will launch “Happy Endings” next month. That one’s about how couples react when another tandem breaks up.
The renewal notice for “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC) makes official what was long expected: The show will go on without Steve Carell as Michael Scott. Signs of his exit abound in tonight’s episode, when Michael prepares to pop the big question to Holly (Amy Ryan). Ryan, who was rather remarkable in this season’s “In Treatment” on HBO, can also be seen in the new, highly acclaimed film comedy “Win Win.”
Carell is not the only “Daily Show” veteran to make good. Ed Helms, who plays Andy Bernard on “The Office,” is also from that Comedy Central series. John Oliver has branched out from his role as a foreign correspondent on “The Daily Show” to play hapless professor Ian Duncan on “Community.” And tonight he gets his second special, “John Oliver’s New York Standup Show” (11 p.m., Comedy Central).
• The crude coming-of-age comedy “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” (10 p.m., MTV) returns for a second season. In my review of the first season, I called it, “Porno for ’tweens” .... “a variation HBO’s ’Hung’ for an audience not yet out of middle school” and “one of the most depressing depictions of youth ever devised.” But that was before MTV’s by-the-numbers remake of “Skins.”
Tonight’s other highlights
• The NCAA Basketball Tournament (6 p.m. and 8 p.m., CBS) features regional semifinal action. Games can also be seen on TBS. Check listings.
• Barring a save, a third singer goes home on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).
• The Jersey Shore can be murder on “Bones” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Leslie leads the office on a camping trip on “Parks and Recreation” (8:30 p.m., NBC).
• After a forced hiatus is announced, Liz and the staff use their down time to look for other jobs on “30 Rock” (9 p.m., NBC). Aaron Sorkin and Will Arnett guest star.
• Sparks fly at the Croatian Embassy on “Fairly Legal” ( 9 p.m., USA).
• With opening day but a week away, “Baseball Tonight” (9 p.m., ESPN) surveys the major leagues.
• An alleged slap between office workers puts Todd in a ticklish position on “Outsourced” (9:30 p.m., NBC).