Tuesday, December 09, 2008

LENO'S MOVE TO PRIME TIME ANNOUNCED

I must say, there are not a heck of a lot of TV pundits impressed with the coming move of Jay Leno to 10 pm from his current 11:35 pm gig. Of course, there was no other option -- NBC gave 11:35 away to Conan O'Brien years ago. So the only way to keep Leno around and keep him from defecting to ABC was to do this.

But lots of people are not impressed and feel this is a serious blow to scripted series on network television. This post at MTV calls the move a death blow for prime time drama on TV. That article speculates we'll probably see ABC and CBS follow suit. David Poland figures the big losers in this whole deal are SAG members, the actors, because NBC is going to get rid of five hours a week of prime time real estate that usually would go to scripted dramas or something like that. He says that with NBC already committed to cheap junk on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays, and two hours of Thursday comedy and two hours of Law and Order series, that leaves only about six hours of time that NBC needs to fill. So it saves NBC a lot of money.

TV Squad's Allison Waldman points the finger at Jeff Zucker for this latest development and asks if there's any way he can be impeached. She says she is fed up with the way the network is being run into the ground by the current administration.

What bugs me is that NBC is going to spin this move as yet another one of their brilliant groundbreaking ideas, when the fact of the matter is this is a major step backward for the network. This reminds me of their other moves -- like giving up on pilot season, or the big idea they floated around to give up the first hour of prime time every night so that they could run reality shows and other crap. Just a day ago they were telling the press how stupid it was to program three hours of prime time every night. Now, they're doing pretty much what they threatened to do the other day: they have torched the 10 pm hour and have thrown it away as part of "prime time." Instead, NBC is essentially turning it into their first hour of "late-night". What a waste.

Instead of competing with CBS, ABC and Fox, NBC is moving head-first in the direction of nonentity networks such as the CW and MyNetworkTV. The attitude among NBC management seems to be: "these other networks program utter crap and sign off the air at 10pm every night. So should we!!"

This looks like a desperate move by a network that is clearly out of fresh ideas and clearly giving up. The folks over there seem to believe the answers to all their prime-time problems can be found in late night from shows like the Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. That's why you see so many SNL alumni getting shows on NBC as of late (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon). And that's why you see Leno being moved to 10 pm -- because they figure he's a big star, plus he's also cheap. But you're not seeing a lot of original thinking with these types of moves. What NBC really needs to do is forget about Saturday Night Live and try and do something new and groundbreaking. But I don't think they have it in them to do that at the moment. They are just playing it safe.

I don't see how this move is going to help NBC. It basically means that instead of two late-night shows, NBC is essentially going to program three. Conan O'Brien is going to continue to live in the shadow of Jay, even though he gets the Tonight Show seat. And this move kind of cheapens the Tonight Show and takes it down a notch.

It also looks like a dumb move. I don't see how The Jay Leno Show (or whatever they plan to call it) is going to do well up against the CSIs and these other shows on the other networks. Leno already skews old as it is -- as a matter of fact, he IS old. In fact, he was supposed to retire. The only thing going for this show is the fact that it's cheap, and this move will prevent Jay from going to a competitor to mash Conan O'Brien!!

I also don't know how the NBC affiliates are going to react. Most of these affiliates have their news at 11 pm, and if their lead-in is some transplanted late-night talk show you can bet the ratings are all going to take a bath. What a debacle this is going to be for NBC. Really, when you see moves like this from venerable networks like NBC, it's no wonder that people are giving up on watching network television in droves and flocking to cable and the rental counter instead.

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