The best part about the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien drama over at NBC is the great comedy that every late night host is getting out of the situation. Conan is getting particularly ballsy.
During his monologue last night, O’Brien went through a list of his “options” now that it seems like a foregone conclusion that Leno is moving back to 11:35 p.m. Among O’Brien’s options? “Star in a Lifetime original movie about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship with her network” and “leave television altogether, and work in a classier business with better people, like hardcore porn.” Ouch.
The controversy has such good comedic value, even the late night hosts on other networks are getting in to the fray. Last night, David Letterman spent a few minutes offering “advice” to NBC, the featured a Top Ten list: “Top Ten Signs There’s Trouble At NBC.”
Back in September, when “The Jay Leno Show” debuted on NBC at 10 p.m., a Time magazine cover line declared: “Jay Leno is The Future of Television. Seriously!” If that’s true, it looks like NBC no longer believes that future belongs in primetime.
After rumors started circulating last week that NBC was mulling moving Leno back to his old 11:35 p.m. slot, NBC Universal entertainment chair Jeff Gaspinconfirmed over the weekend that “The Jay Leno Show” will end next month before the network starts airing coverage of the Olympics. Gaspin said he hopes to move Leno to back to 11:35 p.m., pushing Conan O’Brien and “The Tonight Show” to a 12:05 a.m. start.
Although that’s what the network wants, it remains to be seen if O’Brien will agree to the change or leave NBC for greener pastures at another network like Fox. We wouldn’t blame him, and there’s already news that he’s not happy about NBC’s moves. An exclusive report today in The New York Post, which is owned by the same parent as Fox, said O’Brien was “ready to fly the coop.”
It also remains to be seen whether viewers will welcome the change, which has been motivated by NBC affiliate stations’ complaints that the low-rated “Leno Show” was not a strong enough lead-in to their local news shows. Since NBC put its support behind Leno this year, it hasn’t developed any scripted shows for its 10 p.m. slot, which is usually populated by one-hour dramas. What will the network put there once Leno leaves?
Rumors swirled yesterday that NBC was considering moving Jay Leno from his convention-breaking primetime 10 p.m. slot back to his old home at 11:30 — effectively pushing current late-night host Conan O’Brien out.
In response to the rumors, which ranged from Leno’s 10 p.m. show being suspended or canceled to O’Brien getting the boot altogether, NBC issued statements in support of both hosts, but refused to deny the rumors. But as the night wore on, The New York Times‘ Bill Carterhad the scoop: discussions are in the works to shuffle NBC’s late-night line up while the network tries to hold on to all its current hosts:
“The network has a plan in the works to restore Jay Leno to his old spot at 11:35 each weeknight for a half-hour, while pushing the man who replaced him, Conan O’Brien, to a starting time of 12:05 a.m. Mr. O’Brien would then have a full hour.”
The change, which would take place after NBC’s Olympic coverage wraps up in February, comes in response to complaints from NBC’s local affiliates, who have seen local news ratings dip following Leno’s primetime debut in September, Carter added.
Since it’s now December (eek) the year that was 2009 is coming to a close. And you know what that means: for the next few weeks, end of the year lists and “best of” retrospectives will be filling up all of the magazines and Web sites that we love to read.
In the last 24 hours, we’ve come across two polls seeking to name someone “Person of the Year,” and looking for the public’s helpful insight in order to do it. Whether the actual winner of these polls will be named Person of the Year — or if they are just a way to draw visitors and hits — remains to be seen.
Where has the bulk of Jay Leno‘s young audience gone? Today on the mediabistro.com Morning Media Menu podcast, host Jason Boog of GalleyCat reported that 1.82 million young viewers have fled from the 10 p.m. hour on NBC that’s now home to the new primetime “Jay Leno Show.”
“It’s not news that his show’s not doing well, people have been talking about that for weeks,” Jason told co-host AgencySpy‘s Matt Van Hoven. “But the really funny thing is that CBS and ABC haven’t managed to pick up these viewers.”
Instead, the viewers are going to cable, watching taped shows on their DVRs or (gasp!) simply turning off their TVs. Asked Matt: is it possible that this demographic might not return to TV? Jason thinks so. “There’s just so many options available to people so you can get what you want rather than surfing around to get what you want,” he said.
Also discussed: Are people watching more news video online than on cable news networks? And a recap of what happened yesterday when David Letterman‘s alleged extorter Robert Joel Halderman appeared in court.
You can listen to all the past podcasts at BlogTalkRadio.com/mediabistro and call in at 646-929-0321.
Broadcasting & Cable:An exclusive Q&A with Jay Leno. He talks about the negative press he’s received recently and what’s it’s like to work at NBC: “I find there’s a lot of anger at NBC. But it’s like I say to the people who write the dramas: If I weren’t doing this, it would be “Dateline” five nights a week or reality shows. We’ve kept work in California, we have 22 WGA writers, but there’s always going to be anger and resentment. The last couple of weeks I’ve seen some articles that are a little more, ‘It’s not Jay’s fault, its NBC’s fault,’ and that’s OK, I get it. But when your name’s on the thing, you take the hit and that’s fine.”
“At this moment, there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Jay Leno Show,” and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” combined. Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women. It would be funny if it werenâ€™t true.”
Scovell is not shy about equating this dearth of the fairer sex to the scandal that erupted earlier this month that revealed Letterman’s proclivity for hooking up with female staffers. But what’s unique about her perspective is that it’s one that has been lacking from the whole Letterman debacle: the view of a woman on the inside. While we may not yet have heard the story from Letterman’s former assistant and reported lover Stephanie Birkitt (we’re waiting for exclusive primetime interview with her for sure) or any of the other women Letterman is said to have bedded, we at least have Scovell’s take:
“Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no.”
Would more women on writing staffs have curbed Letterman’s actions? Maybe, maybe not. But Scovell does make a case for including more women on the writing teams, and offers some good ways to do it, too. Now head writers and producers: what are you going to do about it?
Even before the Primetime Emmys opened with a musical number by Neil Patrick Harris, the show’s host — who also served as co-producer — was a lamenting the death of network television.
“This may very well be the last year they’re on a network show,” Harris told New York magazine in a a profile featured in last week’s issue. “This wheel contract they have, where each year a different network gets the show, as the ratings decline it becomes less of a good thing to ‘get it.’ It’s a very expensive show. Which means they have to get more ad revenue. Ads are less expensive, because ratings are down. So you have to do more ads, which makes the show smaller…and finally someone will do it on cable, where there won’t be any commercials. Which will be a wonderful show. Our three-hour show is only two hours and five minutes long, due to economics.”
If cable is a better outlet for award shows, is it also a better outlet for award-winning television? It seemed that way as a slew of the first few awards of the night went to basic cable shows — Toni Collette won Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on Showtime‘s “United States of Tara,” Glenn Close took home the Best Actress in a Drama Series award for “Damages” on FX, Bryan Cranston won Best Actor in a Drama Series for the second year in a row for his role in AMC‘s “Breaking Bad” and AMC’s “Mad Men” won the drama writing award and Outstanding Drama Series.
But, the networks still had a strong showing. Kristin Chenoweth took home the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series prize for her role in ABC‘s “Pushing Daises,” which was canceled even before nominations were announced. Jon Cryer took home Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for CBS‘s “Two and a Half Men,” Alec Baldwin won for the second year in a row for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for NBC‘s “30 Rock,” which also took home the Outstanding Comedy Series award for the third year running.
Still, the changing world of television as a medium was a prevailing theme throughout the show. At one point, Harris revisited his online persona, Dr. Horrible, to (literally) sing the praises of Internet television over network and cable TV — complete with “buffering” gag.
And in her acceptance speech, “30 Rock” creator and star Tina Fey took a jab at Jay Leno when she thanked NBC brass for not pulling her show off the air, “even though we are so much more expensive than a talk show.”
Even Harris couldn’t help mentioning network TV again in his sign off, telling viewers, “May we see you again on broadcast television again next year.”
After the jump, some Emmy highlights, including the Harris’ Dr. Horrible Sing-a-Long Blog bit.