Even if Richard Belzer hadn't opened the tour by referring to NBC's Jay Leno deal as "the last gasp of a dying network," the TV critics were going to spend much of the network portion of the tour asking the heads of the other networks what they thought of the deal. But Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly is a particularly apt choice, as he was briefly in charge at NBC, where he helped develop the likes of "Heroes," "30 Rock," "Friday Night Lights" and "Chuck," before being unceremoniously dumped for the current Ben Silverman/Marc Graboff team.
So what did Reilly think when he heard his old network was giving up five hours of primetime a week to Leno?
"NBC for me is like the crazy ex-wife I can't get away from," he said.
"I give them a lot of credit for signing up Jay. I was surprised to see that. I think it's a smart strategic move for them in a very very troubled place. That's the good part of it. Stepping back, just looking at the facts, the network historically has struggled establishing scripted shows at 8 o'clock. You have to go back to Fresh Prince in 1990 to find a self-starting scripted hit. You almost have to go back to Cosby before that. It's been a historical challenge for NBC even at their height. If 8 o'clock is a place they're going to struggle to establish scripted shows, they don't program Friday/Saturday/Sunday for half the year with scripted shows. On a historical level, if you look at the network that was the premiere brand for scripted television, that's a bit of a sad statement. Whether they make a go as a business level, we'll see."