Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dispatch from press tour: Kevin Reilly looks back on his 'crazy ex-wife'

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."


Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what has Kevin Reilly developed since he got to Fox?

(Not meant as a slam, but wondering as his past-shows are good ones.)

Unknown said...

Friends self-started pretty well in '94.

Todd said...

Friends first aired at 8:30 after Mad About You and had a little trouble catching on. Then it moved to 9:30 after Seinfeld for half a season and became a sensation, moving at the start of its second season to the 8 p.m. slot it occupied until the end of its run.

Kevin Fiorenzo said...

Friends didn't start at 8 originally. It's first season it was at 8:30 behind Mad About You

Unknown said...

I haven't heard anyone comment on the fact that Fox has never had programming at 10pm. Most Fox networks cut to local news or syndicated programming at 10pm. At least NBC is using this time to show a proven ratings winner.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard anyone comment on the fact that Fox has never had programming at 10pm.

I think that's because Fox is a relatively recent network in the scheme of things, and not one of the "Big Three." Thus, the historical implications are less important.

Also, I think it's been mentioned here that the reason Fox never started programming at 10 in the first place was to actually avoid being labeled a network, since that would have meant stricter standards for what they could and could not air. (The FCC rules regarding this are now defunct, and Fox is in fact a network, but still...)

Unknown said...

Well, Fox has been around for over 22 years and it's a network on par with the ABC, NBC, and CBS (actually surpassing them in ratings.) However, it has always provided fewer hours of original programing leaving most of the day to the affiliates.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for the historical trends at NBC, but once again, the most important part of making any network successful is having quality shows. Not every show has to be at the level of "The Sopranos," of course, but there needs to be a minimum level of quality for people to stick around. I think CBS is actually a good example of this. I don't watch any shows on the network, but from what I gather, few if any are so bad that it would inspire a reaction like "You couldn't pay me to watch that!"

I know I shouldn't technically judge the shows without seeing them, but were there any on NBC this past season that weren't widely panned? I can't think of any.

I know it's easier said than done, but if NBC can develop a quality roster of shows, viewers will come. Not that all of these shows will be big hits right away, but having them on the network means that there will be a reason for viewers to stay once the shows are discovered.

NBC's best hope on the short-term horizon is a sizable bump for "The Office" after the Superbowl. If the show can manage to score about 20 to 30 million viewers (obviously, the bigger the better, but let's try to be realistic) and half of them stick around and become a stable audience for the show on Thursdays, it will have been a smart move for NBC. Not only will it have helped that show, but "30 Rock" and whatever one-hour show that will be going after could get a nice bump. This will also allow the network a chance to promote other shows.

Pamela Jaye said...

silly question - if NBC cancels Chuck... first off, who owns Chuck?