Thursday, October 8, 2009

People Want Leno To Fail

I sat down a few weeks back and watched the premier of the Jay Leno show. My wife who is much more the expert in TV than I am (because she worked in it for 9 years and has a degree in it) thought the concept was a worth while experiment, but ultimately we found it a little flawed. However, NBC is pushing the show with both barrels. Jay Leno has been promoted as the bench mark for comedy today, and all kinds of big hollywood starts are lining up to appear on a show that is basically the same as Jay's old show, just on T.V. an hour and a half earlier.

However, as time has worn on, Leno has failed to match his first night Rating Extravaganza. He's fallen somewhere between 30% - 40% on average, with the biggest plummet hitting 50% below the deput of a 14 share. I don't really like talking numbers. I'm just trying to point out, that Leno is on shakey ground. And in this era when ratings are tracked by the minute, and failure to perform gets you the hook faster than you can say, "Head Cases", Leno has to wonder if his good graces will run out much sooner than say, Jimmy Kimmel's good graces. (seriously, who watches that show?).

There is a large cadre of folks who want Leno to fail. And it's not because people hate Jay Leno. People in the industry generally think he's an okay guy. I met him once at a Panda Express. He was a fairly normal, dude. (folks really reserve private hate for Ellen Degeneres) Folks want Leno to fail because it would be a big blow to "Alternative and Reality" programming replacing scripted series.

Leno's show (which is super cheap to produce, especially in post) replaces nearly 5 scripted 1 hour long dramas. That's millions of dollars and revenue going to writers, actors, producers, crews and post production staff. The cost is well above what Leno is doing his show. NBC, which is currently swirling in rumors of financial crisis (Both major share holders, Vivendi and GE are rumored to be shopping their shares), is trying to do what is ultimately the biggest mistake all SUITS running networks and studios make when they are terrified of their bottom line. They are playing it safe.

You look at their line up. They've cut back on NEW shows by at least 4, and replaced bad shows with tried and true dramas formerly in their 10pm slot. They even spun off SNL into a weekly prime time half hour show, in hopes of getting their viewers to watch more often. Jay's show is just another example of this. This is a safe line-up. While entertaining, their Thursday night line up features shows that basically clones of themselves. Parks and Recreation is a clone of The Office, while one could also argue Community is a clone of 30 Rock. I don't want to run a critique of the schedule, but the reality is this is the 'safest most reliable' way to garner stable ratings and try to hit revenue forecast numbers. It is also a great way to fail miserably.

And Fail Miserably, is what many on the inside want. Production companies are licking their chops and waiting to pitch their "I told You So!" shows once the Jay experiment loses it's grant funding. Only time will tell, dear, readers.

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