Thursday, January 07, 2010

NBC Shakeup -- Jay Leno Comes Out on Top

I don't usually do show biz news here but this story is pretty damned amazing. Here's TMZ:

NBC Shakeup -- Jay Leno Comes Out on Top
Posted Jan 7th 2010 3:50PM by TMZ Staff
Jay Leno is going back to his 11:30 PM time slot, and it's looking like Conan O'Brien is the odd man out ... sources tell TMZ.

We've learned Jay's 10:00 PM show will go on hiatus February 1. After the Olympics, Jay will take back his 11:30 PM time slot. What has not been decided -- whether Jay's show will be a half hour, followed by Conan, or whether Jay's show will be an hour and NBC says sayonara to Mr. O'Brien.

We're told Jay and Conan have both been told of the changes. As for Jay, interestingly, he'll get what he always wanted -- his 11:30 PM time slot.

Ed here: If I'm awake at the time the late shows run I'm in bed reading and have been for a few hours so I don't have a dog in this fight. I feel sorry for Conan but it seems to me it was predictable. He doesn't belong at 10:30. He's too odd for mass consumption. Jay Leno was at his funniest when he was a guest on David Letterman's old show. He got the mass audience he wanted but he had to turn into a yuk machine to do it. Nobody home. Be interesting to see if he can get his old numbers back and reign supreme at 10:30 once more. Letterman has always struck me (to quote Normal Mailer on Chandler Brossard) as "a mean, pricky guy" who no doubt spent his school years making fun of other people. He's always struck me as the eighteen year old whose body outstripped his brain. You suspect he's never been deeply hurt by anything and so he's comfortably smug even while he's zeroing in on sixty. That may just be psychobabble but that's my take on the guy. Unfortunately, he's the funniest of all the late night guys. His best years are far behind him but in this field he can still carry most nights. Conan's the big loser here.


James Reasoner said...

None of them are as good as Johnny was.

Randy Johnson said...

Amen, James.

Todd Mason said...

Well, if this works out this way, CO'B either gets a (weekly) primetime slot, or probably walks over to Fox or even, though it's unlikely, the CW or some cable outlet. As I was typing this, the rather more responsible BROADCASTING AND CABLE put this out:

(In response to the last line, No, they gave Conan a slot that was devoted to Leno's blander echo of Carson's already rather bland show, and, wow, he couldn't hold onto either his old audience with a blander version of his old show, and one still weirder than Letterman's, which along with NIGHTLINE has benfitted. Carson Daly might be laughing the hardest
after being passed over for the inept, if game, Jimmy Fallon.

NBC Wants to Set Late-Night Plans Before January 21 Affiliates Meeting
Pressure from stations behind talks of shakeup that could see Leno to 11:35, O'Brien and Fallon 30 minutes later
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, January 8, 2010
Related Leno News
Jay Leno Talks Back: An Exclusive Interview With B&C
Affiliates' 'Leno' Optimism Flagging
NBC is continuing its ongoing discussions about the plans for Jay Leno and the late-night lineup, and would like to come to a decision before its upcoming affiliates board meeting on January 21 in New York.

One plan being discussed seriously would restore Leno to 11:35, and bump back Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon one half hour each.

That would make sense--although NBC execs have publicly maintained The Jay Leno Show's ratings were performing as expected, they have quietly told insiders they were very surprised by the overwhelmingly negative effect on late news and the late night time slots, and would need to do something about it.

With all the talk surrounding yet another potential late-night shake-up, much attention has already turned to where Conan O'Brien may end up if Leno returns to 11:35. Clearly O'Brien's future with the network hangs in the balance, and NBC holds all the cards.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of O'Brien's contract with NBC, the network could keep O'Brien off of rival airwaves for two more years even if they decided to completely bench him from NBC, based on his "pay or play" arrangement.

But with NBC due to pay O'Brien roughly $25 million over two years, should NBC have decided to jettison O'Brien, the two sides could also negotiate an early release, with options including a smaller payout in exchange for O'Brien's freedom after one year, or even immediately.

Late Thursday, NBC felt inclined to issue a statement supporting O'Brien, saying, "We remain committed to keeping Conan O'Brien on NBC. He is a valued part of our late-night line-up, as he has been for more than 16 years and is one of the most respected entertainers on television."

While NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker is the one often tied to the Leno move, it is actually NBC television chief Jeff Gaspin that has been the point man for the company in the meetings with the late-night parties that are currently taking place.

And multiple sources have made note of Gaspin's tact, with one saying, "It is refreshing to see his honesty and him taking full responsibility for whatever he decides."

But with the prospect of Leno returning to 11:35--one possibility being discussed and something he exclusively told B&C he would do--speculation immediately turned to O'Brien.

(end part one)

Todd Mason said...

While sources say ABC probably would not be interested in O'Brien, multiple sources with knowledge of Fox's thinking say they believe the network would be interested in O'Brien if the numbers made sense. News Corp. executives have looked at opening up an 11 p.m. late-night time slot in the recent past.

And O'Brien's price tag may have come down based on The Tonight Show ratings falloff since he replaced Leno and NBC's initial trumpeting of his premiere week numbers.

"I think Conan is in a rough spot," says one Hollywood insider. "We know he can't beat Letterman now. He's the kid who was given the Ferrari and returned a dented BMW."

Additional reporting by Melissa Grego and Michael Malone.

Link at my name on this comment.

RJR said...

I prefer Craig Fergussen(sp?). For one thing he likes writers, has had Larry Block on about 4 times.


mike doran said...

The thing that's really wrong with late-night is that (all together now) everybody's doing the same Goddamn show!

Nowadays nobody would dare to go it alone with no audience and one guest, as Tom Snyder did, and as Bob Costas could still do if given the spot.

As things stand now, the only consistently interesting guy in this field is Craig Ferguson. He's the only one who even tries to surprise you. Everyone else is trapped in the Carson zone - and that's turning into the biggest dead end in TV.

Rabid Fox said...

Ever since Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon called it quits, I've never understood the appeal of late night talk shows. And Jay Leno never ever struck me as funny.

I kind of like Conan's monologues and his interactions with the nuttier guests on his show, but I only watch latenight sporadically.

I think if all the networks switches to airing "Star Trek" and "Walker: Texas Ranger" reruns, I wouldn't bat an eye.

Todd Mason said...

Well, when Carson Daly wasn't moved "up" to the old O'Brien slot, he stopped doing a desk and band show and started doing a more MTV-flavored interview and clips proram...the Costas format at LATER had largely been followed by his successors, though they added an audience and a brief introductory sequence, but LAST CALL in its first form was the first time the show had become simply another desk show.

Late movie and tv repeats packages don't do as well as talk shows, and talk shows also provide promo opportunities that the networks like. CBS's mostly firstrun CRIMETIME AFTER PRIMETIME didn't do as well as Johnny Carson, even when, rarely, the series they were running was worth watching (i. e. Not NIGHT HEAT).

Ferguson is uneven, to say the least, but his show is the least overfamiliar, I will agree, and he does like novelists.

One other fact of late-night, till Jon Stewart took over at THE DAILY SHOW, was that everyone longterm in late night since the early '90s was taller than average, witht the weak exceptions of Ted Koppel and Tavis Smiley. Bob Costas and Greg Kinnear were succeed by Cynthia Garrett (sure, she was a woman and African-American, but thank goodness she was still tall...) and Carson Daly...Craig Kilborn, Charlie Rose, Conan O'Brien all well over six feet, and most of the rest at least six feet tall...

Todd Mason said...

Oh, btw...I suspect that NBC will fill the 10p slots with repeats or near-repeats of corporate cousin USA channel dramas, at least for a month or so. BURN NOTICE, ROYAL PAINS, PSYCH, etc.

Deb said...

Regardless of how this shakes out, NBC couldn't have handled this in a worse manner. Over the past few days, the network brass appear to be incompetent when they don't seem utterly paralyzed. A total clusterf**k.

Kenneth Mark Hoover said...

I miss Johnny Carson, too.

I always liked Leno when he was a guest on Letterman. Never cared for his Tonight Show run, however.