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'Matlock': WKYC-TV, NBC Cleveland Affiliate, Airs Legal Drama Instead Of Thursday Night Lineup

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NBC's Cleveland affiliate WKYC-TV chooses 'Matlock' over Thursday night lineup. | Alamy

WKYC viewers got a very unpleasant surprise on Thursday night ... in the form of "Matlock."

NBC's Cleveland affiliate decided to pre-empt the network's Thursday night lineup with a re-run of a "Matlock" TV movie from 1992 called, "The Legacy."

With NBC falling to fifth place -- behind Univision -- recently in February sweeps, and both its new shows and once-strong Thursday night lineup struggling to generate consistent ratings, WKYC-TV decided that a 21-year-old "Matlock" feature might generate higher ratings than re-runs of "The Office" and "Law & Order: SVU" and a new episode of "1600 Penn," which the affiliate bumped to Saturday night beginning at 1 a.m. According to their website, they plan to employ the same scheduling strategy next week.

Commenters on the WKYC-TV website expressed outrage and bewilderment at the move. "Because what I'd love is to sit down to a nice tv movie from 1992, as I'm sure would most of your regular Thursday night viewers. What are you guys thinking?" Another expressed a similar frustration: "Have you guys gone insane? Matlock is the best substitution you could come up with? Someone should be fired. Total incompetence."

Other viewers vented on Twitter. "Um I tried to tune into the Office on @wkyc and I get Matlock?! Love the theme song but what the hell?" Michael Wendt tweeted.

Another commenter, Matt Karnack, reported that he emailed WKYC-TV for an explanation and was told the ratings of "1600 Penn" and "The Office were so bad that they were airing the "Matlock" re-runs "to get ratings points back for our advertisers."

So did it work? Was "Matlock" a ratings success for WKYC? In household ratings, which measures the percent of the market's household audience is watching a certain program, "The Office" had a 1.7 rating against a 1.6 rating for the first half-hour of "Matlock" on WKYC, Showbuzz Daily reports. "1600 Penn" also had a 1.7 household rating at 9:30, compared to a 1.8 rating for "Matlock" at that time. "SVU" was the only program to significantly outdo "Matlock: The Legacy" in the 10 p.m. hour, earning a 2.9 versus "SVU's" 2.1 in the first half and then in the a 3.2 rating at 10:30 against "Matlock's" 2.4.

WKYC-TV station manager Brooke Spectorsky told THR that the station chose "Matlock" as a tribute to the late Andy Griffith, who was left out of the Oscar's "In Memoriam" montage.

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