An NBC affiliate station in Cleveland took a curious strategy to shore up flagging ratings for The Peacock’s Thursday lineup last night: It preempted The Office, 1600 Penn, and Law & Order: SVU (the first and third of which were repeats) in order to rerun a 21-year-old Matlock movie. Curiouser still: The gambit sort of worked. According to ShowBuzzDaily, the number of households in the Cleveland area tuned in to Matlock: The Return just slightly edged out the national average for 1600 Penn, thus proving the long-held notion that TV viewers in major Midwestern markets prefer the folksy, homespun wisdom of the late Andy Griffith to whatever Josh Gad is yelling about this week. (And for another notch in the win column, WKYC receives all of the ad revenue sold for that two-hour bloc, rather than the lion’s share of the money going to the network.) The station plans to follow the same preemption track for next Thursday with Matlock: The Heist; if the ratings improve, expect to hear about every affiliate from Sioux Falls to Buffalo tossing out NBC reruns in favor of old Columbos, McMillan & Wifes, and Murder, She Wrote double features. [h/t @anniezaleski]
UPDATE: WKYC has issued a brief statement on the decision, pointing out that Matlock: The Return also bested repeats of Scandal and the Jimmy Kimmel Oscar special among men ages 25 to 54. The statement goes on to say that fans of The Office voiced their displeasure with the preemption; in a possibly related move, director of programming and sales marketing Terry Moir told The A.V. Club that WKYC no longer plans to air Matlock: The Heist.