This week’s cover story is about the talk show host, his new show and the future of television and NBC. Leno is the future of television, you see, and the success of his show could make or break the network. The expansion of “The Tonight Show” brand is also typical of the Jeff Zucker regime at NBC. Explains Time writer James Poniewozik:
“NBC in the Zucker era has been less successful at creating new hits than at strategically deploying old ones. Zucker gave us the supersized ‘Friends,’ the fourth hour of ‘Today,’ the two-hour ‘Biggest Loser.’ What’s still working at NBC? ‘The Tonight Show’? Why, then, NBC shall have two of them!”
Poniewozik says Leno is the future, but his new gig is just a retread of a strategy already employed by NBC and other networks. Talk shows and reality shows are some of the cheapest shows to produce, making them very attractive to nets, especially if they can snag high ratings. So what makes this newest venture different, revolutionary even?
“The Jay Leno Show” will have all the best parts of a talk show, with popular host Leno at the helm. There will be an opening monologue, a house band, guests, correspondent spots (in the spirit of “The Daily Show”) from D.L. Hughley, Leno’s signature “Jaywalking” man on the street quiz segment and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams even has a place on the show’s roster. Poniewozik argues that all of that combined may result in a show that “will be just lame enough to be a hit.” But, it’s still nothing new:
“The cold fact about NBC’s Leno strategy is, it is giving up. Whether it’s a brilliant strategic retreat or a premature surrender remains to be seen. But bottom line, what was once TV’s premier network is drastically reducing its expectations: giving up the possibility of developing a lucrative ‘CSI’-size hit at 10, swinging for singles rather than the fences, seeking — wisely, for all we know — to ride out the decline of big media with a minimum of damage.”
It sounds kind of cheesy and a little intriguing, so we’ll probably tune in — if we’re not watching something else, scripted or otherwise.
Time is also offering a little sneak peak of the “Leno” set in a video about the cover’s photo shoot: