"TMZ" gets new slot – and channel

Katie, Brian, and Charles: you met your match.

Beginning Monday, Harvey Levin’s syndicated celebrity gossip paparazzi show TMZ will face off against network newscasts in Chicago with the show moving to 5:30 p.m. on Fox-owned WFLD-TV. The program currently airs on sister station WPWR-TV at 6:30 p.m.

TMZ will continue to air at 11:35 p.m. on WFLD.

Fox-owned stations in New York (WNYW) and Los Angeles (KTTV) already air the Warner Bros. – syndicated magazine directly against the network newscasts with some measure of success. TMZ airs in those two markets at 6:30 p.m.

The moves are being made due to the arrival of Everybody Loves Raymond at WPWR and four other My Network TV stations owned by Fox (WWOR in N.Y., KCOP in L.A., KDFI in Dallas, and KTXH in Houston.) The off-network sitcom is moving from Tribune stations in these markets.

Raymond is airing at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on WPWR beginning Monday. Fox is also moving Malcolm in the Middle to WPWR (a move long overdue), where it will air at 5:30 p.m. – the same time period where it has aired on WFLD since 2004. Still Standing (a former CBS sitcom) moves to 6:30 p.m. from 5 p.m. on WPWR.

Raymond is also airing Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. on WFLD, while Malcolm gets a second weekday airing at 7:30 a.m.

The moves leave King of the Hill, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons as the only off-network sitcoms left on WFLD’s weekday schedule, as the station is moving more toward news, court, and reality programming, while WPWR is being positioned more for recent off-network sitcoms and first-run talk and game shows.

At one time, WFLD’s early-evening (or early fringe and access) lineup consisted of off-network sitcoms such as Happy Days, Gimme A Break!, Diff’rent Strokes, The Cosby Show (which it paid a record $105,000 an episode for), Family MattersHome Improvement, and M*A*S*H.

Will WFLD launch a early fringe news show in the future like many other Fox-owned stations have done? Only time will tell.

And if you think slotting TMZ at 5:30 p.m. between two airings of The Simpsons is – well – odd, think of TMZ as a comedy show itself – if you’ve seen it, then you know what I mean.