December 9, 2008

nbc night moves

We've been waiting a while to see how NBC would handle Jay Leno's departure from The Tonight Show this year. There was talk that they would change their minds and extend his contract, or Leno would move to ABC to start a new show. His ratings have been very strong, so Leno had the upperhand in negotiations. And NBC made a huge move to keep him.

Leno will still have his own show Monday thru Friday...on 10pm. As planned, Conan O'Brian will take over The Tonight Show and Jimmy Fallon will take Conan's spot. This means there will be three hours of late night television on NBC. The network aims to use the momentum of Leno at 10pm to keep viewers on the network through the new Tonight Show and into Jimmy Fallon.

It's an interesting concept, but a huge programming decision. That means NO slots for 10pm shows (or 9pm for central folks), leaving only two hours for primetime programming on NBC. It's not a huge shock because Ben Silverman (NBC prez) hasn't been doing a stellar job lining up successful shows during that hour. But traditionally, it was a big money maker for NBC - shows like ER and Law & Order SVU have had homes there for years. Admittedly, in the DVR/TiVo age, I rarely watch 10pm shows live. So, I do understand the decision. But this really is a big leap of faith for Silverman.

In terms of hosts, I love Conan, and I'm glad they didn't go back on the decision to finally give him the best seat in the house. Less love for Leno, but he is a crowd pleaser, especially among older audiences, so maybe this is the right spot for him. Jimmy Fallon. What has he been doing? I loved him as the cute newbie on SNL, but his act got a little tired after a while. He has a lot to prove. And NBC is trying to get a jump on screen testing by airing webisodes in advance of the new show. Here is Fallon's first attempt. Thoughts? Keep working on reading those cue cards, friend.


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