Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Night Flight

Last week, my parents went to Las Vegas for a four-night breather from the bitter Chicago cold. Upon returning Friday night, one of the first things my dad asked me was, "so, did you hear the latest about Jay Leno?" I knew about he was talking about, and I knew right where the conversation was going. He watched Leno's monologue almost religiously when he hosted "The Tonight Show," and he knew I'd been a Conan fan for years. He's as baffled by my taste in late night comedy and I am of his viewing choices. Obviously, I responded by defending O'Brien and stating that NBC made a mistake in backing Leno. "You only say that because you hate him," he declared. He walked out of the room before I could elaborate on what I said.

If Jay Leno is returning to 11:35/10:35c, than NBC has followed one big mistake with an even more consequential misfire. By giving "The Chin" five hours of prime time a week, NBC inadvertantly overshadowed Conan O'Brien's move to to the old Leno slot and minimized his role in the network's lineup. To move Leno's show back to its old time slot is more than rectifying a wrong, it's a concession of defeat, and above all it's a slap in the face to a tremendously funny and distinctive comedian that has been loyal to The Peacock for almost 17 years. If I were running NBC, I would simply cut bait on Leno; I wouldn't care if he jumped to another network, Letterman and Conan would soundly beat him ratings-wise night after night. Leno was a cash cow for the network, but now he's just hamburger.

Of course, I can't rant about NBC's future without acknowledging the man behind the curtain, Jeff Zucker. In the nine years since he ascended to the network's upper throes, Zucker has proven to be an ineffectual, nearsighted syncophant, and the Leno/Conan situation merely reinforces his status as an idiot in a suit. On his watch, NBC went from #1 to fourth place, from torchbearer to punchline, from record profits to being bought out by Comcast. The number of bona fide hit shows that he developed during his "reign" can be counted on one hand. In moving Leno back to 11:35/10:35c, Zucker and his peons have five hours of prime time real estate that they don't know how to fill. They may as well concede 10/9c to Shamwow and the newest Jack Lalanne juicer.

In 2005, New York magazine slammed Zucker (and rightfully so) as the embodiment of bloated self-confidence, a Hollywood outsider that tried too hard to one-up his rivals, the captain of a great ship slowly sinking in an ocean of hubris and complacency. Five years later nothing has changed, and inexplicably Zucker is almost unscathed, still large and in charge. As it stands now, the collateral damage is staggering and somebody has to clean up the mess; NBC hemorraged ad revenue with Leno in prime time, the shows that once thrived at 10/9c are barely registering in earlier time slots, and local newscasts keep losing viewers. The Peacock might be molting its feathers, but I doubt that this incomparable debacle will curb Zucker's yen for experimenting. What he'll do next is anyone's guess, though for many Hollywood insiders the reason of a doubt is long gone.


  1. I read somewhere that NBC has a bunch of new shows in production right now, so I'd assume they would fill the new 9pm slot & they could stick a few Datelines & reruns in there. Two weeks ago they did the 2-hour comedy block, and while I enjoyed Monday-Wednesday... I don't think I've ever seen a network dedicate a single sitcom for 2 hours in primetime 4 straight nights. It just seems so... Fox/syndication-esque.

    I'm not suprised with your dad's reaction to Leno. Dinosaurs like dinosaurs. And yeah, my parents hate Conan too, tho I don't think they've ever even watched his show. Unfortunately I think Conan will just accept a 30-minute demotion, meaning I'll end up watching 30 minutes of Letterman before switching over to Conan. But NBC should be warned: this is dangerous, to the point that how many nights am I going to remember to switch to NBC, and I already don't watch NBC's mediocre 10pm newscast. Having Leno in the 10:30pm-11pm slot is an extremely annoying pissant to deal with, and I think I won't be alone. I'm already really tired by 10:30pm and I don't need more obstacles. 11pm start times for late talk shows is not natural, at least here.

    Jaw Leno and his fans need to realize that the Tonight Show made Leno, not the other way around.

  2. Nice, Conan politely told NBC to fuck off. The question is, what happens now? Can Leno? Put him on at 12:30am? Conan goes to Fox? Would ABC move Nightline for Conan? Who hosts the Tonight Show if Conan leaves? They should promote Jimmy Fallon to the Tonight Show and really kill the network. Just kill the god damn motherfucker. Yeah!

  3. Conan got screwed over worse than Letterman.

    I'm disgusted by what NBC is doing, and Conan has the right to be pissed off. He should leave NBC. And to be honest, if NBC didn't have Sunday Night Football, Chuck, and the Thursday Night stuff, I would completely boycott the network until they fire Zucker.

  4. Well, I've decided I'm going to boycott all-things NBC if they put Jaw Leno back on the Tonight Show. My god, what is so god damn great about Jay Leno?! Just let him leave! I only watch NBC for Community, Parks, Office & Conan. I will not watch a network that is completely incompetent, even if it means missing some shows (which I'll probably see down the line in syndication anyway). All I'll have to do is delete Channel 5 from my converter box. Easy as pie. NBC sucks.

    And today I saw Jeff Zucker's picture for the first time. He looks like a big fat bald beer swilling slob! Zucker needs to realize that Leno is the problem, not Conan.

  5. Zucker is only 44 years old too, my dad is 50 and he looks younger than that dumbass. I would feel no sympathy if someone shoved that incompetent moron into an oncoming train.

    And if Leno does take the Tonight Show back after his Favre-like inability to retire stole Conan's dream job from him, I am done with Leno. I'm permanently going to Letterman [I went back and forth between them before Leno "left" the Tonight Show]. The only reason I would watch Leno is if I could be in the audience and boo him.

    I have my "I'm with Coco" picture on Facebook, and I am ready to argue with anyone who is on Team Leno.