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This morning brings ominous news for Studio 60's legion of upscale, affluent, and Nielsen-confounding, TiVo-time-shifting fans: Variety reports that NBC is moving up by a week its previously announced indefinite yanking of the series following the show's worst ratings to date, handing over its juicy, post-Heroes Monday night timeslot to [pause for reflexive tightening of the sphincter] Paul Haggis' The Black Donnellys on February 26th. Says Var:

Decision to yank "Studio 60" a week early will no doubt raise a new round of questions about the show's long-term fate. Insiders said the net still hasn't decided what to do with the show and that the sked change is mostly about giving "Donnellys" the best possible launch.

We take absolutely no joy in this development, as we've found showrunner Aaaron Sorkin's recent, if tragically low-rated, turn towards Shayamalanesque storytelling techniques (we spent a good portion of the second act of Monday night's show scrawling the letters in "Tim Batale" on a window with a grease pencil until a lucky combination of the letters finally unlocked the shocking secret of Matt Albie's hallucinated, pill-popping alter-ego) a refreshing shift from the kind of coyote-chasing-ferret-chasing-snake frivolity that has hampered recent episodes of the drama. Besides, the last time S60 seemed to be on shaky footing, it was rewarded with a full-season pick-up, so we're inclined to believe that its sure-to-be-brief hiatus from the airwaves has something to do with ongoing negotiations between Sorkin and NBC president Kevin Reilly to work out a deal not only to keep the series on the air for three additional seasons, but to quickly spin off some popular recurring characters, like Militant Fruit Of The Loom Guy and Alcoholic Musical Prodigy Daughter Of A Stern Asian Businessman Who Pretends Not To Speak English To Advance An Already Convoluted Plot, into their own pilots.