NEW YORK - Joey from "Friends" may be moving across the country, but he's still going to be in familiar territory.
NBC is very likely to give Matt LeBlanc's spinoff series, "Joey," the same Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern time slot that "Friends" is vacating at the end of this season, an NBC executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said on Friday.
The network's chief executive, Jeff Zucker, told NBC stations in an affiliate meeting this week that that's where he's leaning.
The spinoff features LeBlanc's character, Joey Tribbiani, moving to Hollywood to further his acting career. He moves in with a brainy 20-year-old nephew who's a rocket scientist.
Drea de Matteo, who plays Adriana la Cerva on "The Sopranos," has signed on to play Gina, Joey's high-strung sister.
Kevin Bright, Shana Goldberg-Meehan and Scott Silveri -- who were part of the creative team behind "Friends" -- are working on "Joey" and the new series is expected to share its comic sensibility.
Up until a few months ago, a huge burden of expectations would have come with that time slot, which leads off the prime-time schedule on what is, in terms of advertising dollars, the most lucrative night on television.
But the success of "The Apprentice" for NBC on Thursdays has taken some of the pressure off.
The finale to the Donald Trump boardroom game was seen by an estimated 28 million people this week, according to Nielsen Media Research. It was the third most-watched show of the season behind the Academy Awards and the post-Super Bowl "Survivor" episode among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic by which NBC measures its success.
NBC has signed Trump for two more editions of "The Apprentice," which will also air on Thursdays next season.
"It clearly has become our improbable replacement for 'Friends,'" Zucker said. "I could never have predicted it."