Jay Leno stays with NBC for The Jay Leno Show
By now, we all know the 411: Jay Leno is set to
go to ABC retire in 2009, Conan O'Brien will take his slot at 11:35pm on the The Tonight Show and Jimmy Fallon has been given O'Brien's old chair on Late Night. As far as we knew, that was the end of the story. But nothing is clear cut in TV land these days, and NBC has announced that Leno is staying on at the network in a new time.
All this comes after days of turbulation from NBC. First the network announced staff cuts and a restructuring of the company. Entertainment Weekly reported the network and its studio planned "to merge their programming ranks and
put Angela Bromstad—who'd been heading NBC Universal's
international production—in charge of all scripted fare. Former BBC
Worldwide America executive and Dancing With the Stars
producer Paul Telegdy will head unscripted programming." OK, nothing too insane, right?
Well, then Jeff Zucker made a few announcements of his own about NBC's future. "Can we continue to broadcast 22 hours in primetime? Three of our
competitors don't," the NBC Universal President said in an
keynote address during the annual UBS Global Media and Communications
Conference. "Can we continue to broadcast seven days a week? One of our
competitors doesn't." Um, rut-ro? Maybe not.
The Leno plan makes sense, as producing a talk show (although he claims it will be a different format than his previous gig) is a lot cheaper than filling the 10 p.m. time slot with another failed series (see: Lipstick Jungle, My Own Worst Enemy, etc.). Not to mention that Leno is a sure thing ratings earner in a time when nothing is for sure. So is this the smartest move the struggling network has made so far? That depends if audiences like these types of shows. With three hours nightly of talk (Leno), talk (O'Brien), talk (Fallon), NBC is seemingly banking on the fact that viewers love celebrity self-promotion and one song from the newest "it" musical act!
Despite the nightly overload, NBC co-chief Ben Silverman swears this isn't an attempt to cut programming. "We're going to be able to program Friday more aggressively, we're going to have more scripted on Sunday, we're about to open up more nights," Silverman said. "This is going to strengthen our entire primetime lineup."
No matter what the program (tentatively called The Jay Leno Show) boils down to, Leno says he is ready to move on. "After 17 years of Tonight, I'm ready to try something new," he
said. "There were reports that I was going to go to ABC. But they
were started by a disgruntled employee: Me...when you go
someplace else it takes you six months to get going, plus you have
your old troops shooting you in the back on your way out. I tend to
leave the dance with the person I came in with." The new show will dance its way onto TV next fall and will run 46 or 48 weeks a year. Graboff said they will kick it off one week before all the other network premieres to give it a head start.
When asked by reporters what he thinks about the business side of the decisions being made, Leno balked. "What I like to do is write jokes, tell jokes and get checks," he said. "I enjoy making love, I don't need to be a gynecologist."
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