Monday, September 14, 2009

Will 'The Jay Leno Show' reinvent network TV? - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I ponder what, if any, long-term impact the debut of "The Jay Leno Show" will have on the way the broadcast networks operate.

I'll be checking out the show a few times this week, though I'm not expecting much, because a report last week suggests Jay is doing his usual thing, and that thing is not for me. In this case, I'm more interested in watching the numbers than in watching the show itself.


Original Ray said...

Long Live David Letterman!

Anonymous said...

TV critics have long been bemoaning the death of prime-time variety shows, especially just before and after the Rosie O'Donnell disaster. Here's a chance for timely live music, long missing. Jay will finally shoo away "To Catch a Predator" and the other dubious, biased products of Dateline and the news division. Jay's political jibes are far funnier, and less mean-spirited than the cheap shots of Non-Weekend Update, and he'll hit Dem and Rep dirtballs equally hard. And critics still look back fondly to the urbane and intellectual Dick Cavett in prime time as an example of what can be done, but if you watch the actual programs, they were predictable, low-middlebrow, smarmy and dull.

Honestly, can you name five really great pilots that NBC could have filled these hours with?

kate said...

Not pilots, but I'd rather watch say Chuck (not on til next spring), Friday Night Lights(not on til next year?), or even Life (cut) rather than five straight nights of late night talk show's that's not so late night.

If this works, I'm afraid of what future holds for future pilots and shows on network tv.

Adam said...

Though, is being DVR-proof in an age when everybody has a DVR -- and likes it -- such a good thing? Do you want to make a show no one will want to watch if they miss it when it airs live?

It's a good thing for NBC if it means the people who are watching the show are forced to watch the commercials.

Kent said...

If it's the future of TV, then I'd say the second golden age really is fading away.
I love Conan O'Brien, but I'd be hard pressed to not be upset if he was given five hours of primetime. Now give those hours to someone so utterly void of actual entertainment... But I can't out and out hope for his failure because NBC will probably pull Conan and reinstall him. And if Jay does great, then Conan's show suffers a different way, losing out to Jay for guests or losing audience that just gets tired of talk shows and doesn't want to watch two in a row (let alone three or four.) I'm sure when he was tapped to host the Tonight Show, he didn't know he'd end up in such a rock and a hard place.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should say that, because "predictable, low-middlebrow, smarmy and dull" has been my exact impression of Leno's style in the (admittedly few) times I tuned in to his version of the Tonight Show over the years.

That said, your point is well-taken that the Dick Cavett shows are often far better in hazy memory than they were in actual execution. Though I contend that even at his worst, he could be a far more thoughtful interviewer than Leno at his best.

*That* said, NBC could have (and should have) filled the slots with five nights of "Heat Vision and Jack". That's excellence we *all* could have agreed on!

Brandy said...

I wasn't a fan of Leno's late night show and I love scripted television so this is not a change I'm looking forward to.

But with all of NBC's woes I do hope something works out for them.

Kent said...

Also, in regards to being DVR-proof, my fiance and I would DVR Late Night and watch it the next day. (When I was in college, I did basically the same thing, when Comedy Central would run the previous night's show during my lunch break between classes.) I doubt there will be anything on Leno that would be imperative to watch at that moment once in a while, let alone on a regular basis. The only way it's DVR proof is that people might let it pile up and delete a lot of episodes unwatched.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Here's a chance for timely live music, long missing.

Except that Jay has said he doesn't want to feature music very often on the show (maybe twice a week, at most), because he feels music acts play much better to the studio audience than the home audience.

Peggy said...

I am not a Leno fan. When I see a guest on his show that I might want to catch....usually a musical guest, I will tivo. This way I can FF thru it until I see the guest.
Jay is not funny. Very dumbed down. I do not appreciate that. And Jay Walking? Oh my - lowest common denominator of humans. That is pathetic not funny.

I'm a David and Craig fan. Count me out for Leno. Too many good options on cable and premiums to have to sit through this. Anonymous says what pilots could NBC put on in it's place? Now that is damn sad for NBC.
I have discovered many a hidden treasure when running from network television. Rescue Me, Being Erica, My Boys, Mad Men, Saving Grace, Burn Notice,In Treatment,Hung,and the list goes on. Who needs Leno! I am smarter than that.

Anonymous said...

You suck. Jay Leno is way more talented than you'll ever be.

TomV-Piscataway said...

I saw Jay Leno interviewed about the new show. It was interesting that he made a comment about how people are working more now, sometimes two jobs, and that they're going to bed earlier, so his show will be perfect for them. I'm sure Conan was pissed when he heard this. Boy oh boy, that's some lead in to the Tonight Show. I think Conan is going to take a big hit once Jay starts the new show. Jay does have a loyal fan base.

dez said...

It was interesting that he made a comment about how people are working more now, sometimes two jobs, and that they're going to bed earlier, so his show will be perfect for them.

Perfect as in the best way to put them to sleep? That's what Carson was for me, a cure for insomnia. I suppose I could use Jay for the same thing :-D

Robert said...

The new show isn't DVR proof. It's tailor-made to DVR and then watch after the news instead of the insufferable Conan.

Regardless of what the ratings do, it's hard to believe the Tonight Show ratings won't drop even further than they have already. The real rub is going to come from the affiliates as noted in the column. If it starts cutting into their 10/11 news ratings, they're going to scream bloody murder. Otherwise Jay could be on in primetime for a very long time to come.

Jim said...

anyone else struck by how hard they're pushing Seinfeld as a first guess as if it were 1996? But then I always felt, and Curb Your Enthusiasm confirmed my suspicions, that Seinfeld was the weakest link in his own show.

And even when Seinfeld was the biggest thing on the TeeVee, was his demographic even close to Leno's?

Rick said...

I'm a fan of your writing in general, but I wanted to mention that this was one of your best-written NJ articles. Concise yet thorough, with everything laid out and just a touch of personality.
Very Nice.

J said...

It is sad that NBC has basically jettisoned its 10pm slot, but in your article you mention that the higher-rated FOX hasn't felt the need to burn things down. But FOX has very rarely scheduled shows in the 10pm slot. They've been dealing with a shrunken schedule since their inception.

Anonymous said...

Wow. No mention that he's got Kanye tonight?

Anonymous said...

Why is it being marketed as "comedy at 10" ? I never considered the Tonight Show to be comedy.

Probable mediocre ratings.

What COULD succeed ?

Chat, celebrity gossip, one or two interviews. In short, a slightly classier version of "The View" or Chelsea lately.

Which Leno would be HORRIBLE at.

Jonathan B. said...

I saw Jay Leno interviewed about the new show. It was interesting that he made a comment about how people are working more now, sometimes two jobs, and that they're going to bed earlier, so his show will be perfect for them. I'm sure Conan was pissed when he heard this.

I saw that in the Time cover story he had last week. After he said that they asked if people would stay up Conan, to which he responded "Oh - yeah!"


Terrence Moss said...

"The Jay Leno Show" is another band-aid solution to deeper wounds that dates back to the twilight years of "Friends". Instead of shoring up its lineup with broad mass appeal programs that charactertized its initial success in the 1980s, NBC stretched out "Friends" as long as they could and were left with "Joey".

Since then their program development has been driven by niche comedies and high-concept dramas with limited appeal.

The result was a total collapse of their Thursday night lineup -- which for years had been the foundation of their entire lineup.

The lone evidence of any forward thinking was this inane deal in 2004 to oust Leno in 2009 as a means of keeping Conan from jumping ship. I like Conan, but if he wanted to go, they should have released him to pursue other opportunities.

Whether "The Jay Leno Show" fails or succeeds, I can't imagine CBS and ABC following suit -- particularly since ABC has stronger development and CBS already has a comparatively strong 10pm lineup.

If a network can't program it's own prime, they should turn it over to their affiliates and split the revenue instead of turn 23% of it to one individual.

Or shop the "Jay Leno Show" as a syndicated property.

J said...

Wow. This is painful.

Even on mute. Tavis Smiley has a better looking set.

JVD said...

Not to be a hater, but I had to turn it off after the first 15 minutes. It was painfully unfunny. I was not a regular "Tonight Show" viewer, but this just felt even more middle-brow, drawn out and awkward. What scares me the most is if this thing actually connects with viewers.

Matt said...

That was the most painfully unfunny thing I've seen in years. If NBC has an iota of self respect, they'll announce that it's being dumped tomorrow. It's particularly sad since USA and SyFy have developed a plethora of shows that could be filling that 10 PM slot (Warehouse 13, Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, and In Plain Sight would be a decent M-F set of 10 PM shows).

Milaxx said...

Not watching. Jay hasn't been funny for a long time. I'm sure he'll do decent ratings tonight simply because he has great guest booked and he'll be riding the after effects of Kanye's acting out on the VMAS's.
As for future eps, any decent acts he has I'll wait and seek out on youtube.

Mapeel said...

I'm in the "don't get Jay" camp myself. Ten years ago I edited a book on stand-up comedy on television. Larry Gelbart wrote the intro, Jay chose not to contribute at all. Twist of fate to think about them in the same breath again after all these years. I excerpt some of Gelbart's wonderful prose in this post.

Hannah Lee said...

Not to be a hater, but I had to turn it off after the first 15 minutes

JVD, you made it 5 minutes longer than I did. I thought I'd give it a try, but there wasn't really anything to keep me watching, and I probably won't tune back in, unless there's a guest I'm really interesting in seeing. It was kind of dull and unfunny.

On the other hand, right now, Conan is doing stunts with flames and explosions.


I guess that's one way to get attention through the Jay Leno media blitz. And it was funny.

Jason Potapoff said...

I understand the reasoning behind NBC doing this (not wanting to lose Jay to another network,saving money with something that probably has a better chance at succeeding than 5 new dramas, etc). But I think they could have accomplished the same thing by giving Jay only 3 days of the week. That would have left them with 2 days to do something else, it would feel less like the Tonight Show an hour earlier, and it probably would hurt Conan less. It would make Jay's show feel different and it would give them more options. It would also have stopped Jay from jumping ship, while at the same time not hurt Conan's Tonight Show by having his predecessor air before him. Could you imagine how Jay would have worked out as the new host of the Tonight Show if Carson was given a weekly show an hour earlier?

Terrence Moss said...

NBC wouldn't be in this position if they had a development team that knew how to create and produce quality character-driven dramas that had been the hallmark of their previous success.

It's all in the development.

But since NBC is in this position, I agree with you on Jay running 2 or 3 times a week as if it were any other prime show in order to run at least 2 or 3 dramas at 10pm.

It's a shame before God the way NBC has just tanked so unnecessarily over the last five years.

Mark B said...

I like Conan, but if he wanted to go, they should have released him to pursue other opportunities.

One of those "opportunities" was a competing show on Fox, probably starting at 11. (They tried to get him several years back.) NBC wanted to keep that from happening.

If you're NBC, what do you do? You want to keep both Jay and Conan, even if only to keep them from going elsewhere, but Conan doesn't want to be a 12:30 guy indefinitely.

I think giving Jay all five nights was a bit much, but NBC once considered offering Letterman the 8:00 hour every night (except Thursday, where they had The Cosby Show).

Terrence Moss said...

I don't know all the opportunities but I have to wonder if FOX had the okay from its affiliates to even offer that 11pm hour to Conan. Unlike on NBC, CBS and ABC -- late nights on FOX affiliates are non-network save for Saturday nights.

So the question is, even if they offered Conan at 11, how would it have gone over with affiliates doing well with syndicated programming?

Though you want to keep Jay AND Conan, letting him got FOX if he so chose is a MUCH greater risk for FOX and Conan than for NBC.

With Conan's writing background, I personally would have rather had a development deal, but that's just me.

What NBC should have done was show more respect to Jay. There were alternatives -- a series of Conan specials, permanent guest host status on "Tonight Show" or a development deal as I mentioned before.

Anonymous said...

Why do people hate writers so? I mean, other than it costs money to feed and house them, but must NBC hate them so much they need to clobber us with Leno five nights a week BEFORE we have to become even more depressed watching the news?

Kill. The. New. Leno. Show. Now.