“Days of our Lives” is not the only serial soap opera on NBC anymore as the network itself has made headlines over plans to reconfigure its late-night slate.
During NBC’s presentation at the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour on Jan. 10, Chairman Jeff Gaspin confirmed rumors that “The Jay Leno Show” will cease to exist in primetime effective Feb. 12. However, Leno’s contract is not up with the “Peacock Network” and would instead air a half-hour edition of his show at 11:35 p.m. With this change, “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” would begin at 12:05 a.m. and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” at 1:05 a.m.
While this news was probably met with celebration among creative types that work on scripted programming, late-night staples O’Brien and Fallon have been effectively undermined by NBC brass in favor of Leno. However, this proposed scheduling did not jive with O’Brien in a statement he released announcing that he would refused to air later than his current 11:35 p.m. slot.
“For 60 years the ‘Tonight Show’ has aired immediately following the late local news,” O’Brien stated. “I sincerely believe that delaying the ‘Tonight Show’ into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.”
O’Brien is now leaving NBC with a payout totaling a reported $30 million, though that figure could change depending on any upcoming deal the late-night funnyman strikes with another net. All intellectual property that originated during O’Brien’s tenure at “Late Night,” including the Masturbating Bear will remain in the possession of O’Brien (the fate of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is still up in the air).
Since its September debut, “The Jay Leno Show” has struggled to maintain an audience worthy of competing against shows on ABC and CBS, as well as scripted programming on cable. While “The Jay Leno Show” consistently manages an 18-49 demographic rating at 1.5 or higher (the number needed to make a profit for the net), affiliates have alleged their 11 p.m. newscasts have slipped drastically in the ratings. According to the Boston Globe, NBC lost 4.6 percent of its viewers in prime-time since Leno has taken over the 10 p.m. hour.
NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics next month should take the heat off the network temporarily, but quick decisions are needed in filling the timeslots previously occupied by Leno. The five blocks have been filled with shows from the “Law & Order” franchise, new family drama “Parenthood,” special segments of “Dateline” and the new Jerry Seinfeld-produced reality program, “The Marriage Ref.” NBC’s deal with DirecTV allows them to begin airing “Friday Night Lights” as early as March 1, though the drama will not return until April 30. NBC is counting on “Parenthood” starring Lauren Graham, Peter Krause and Craig T. Nelson to draw viewers back.
Planning for the 2010-2011 television season, NBC has commissioned at least 18 shows, including an update of the James Garner-fronted “The Rockford Files” and an American adaptation of the British “Prime Suspect” series.
“We have absolutely dedicated our resources to fortifying and building up our development slate,” said NBC President Angela Bromstad.
The future does not look bright for NBC, but watching this once esteemed network crumble to pieces will go down as one of the most entertaining and depressing segments in television history.