Jay Leno is the future of TV... even if he fails
In the latest issue of Time (hits newsstands tomorrow) the mag's resident critic James Poniewozik has a great article on the upcoming prime-time premiere of The Jay Leno Show. Poniewozik makes the argument (an ubiquitous one at this point) that as a result of Leno's move to 10 p.m., your TV is shrinking.
As he puts it, in a TV viewing world where the attention span of potential eyeballs is so segmented because of cable, DVRs, and Hulu, NBC is throwing all their eggs in one basket with "America's most successful purveyor of vanilla."
However, a lot of people really like vanilla. Good sign? Hard to say.
Highlights and a look the issue's cover after the jump.
I've got mixed feelings about Leno's new show. Part of me wants to see it fail because it's cutting back on the number of dramas on the air and that in turn is killing jobs - never a good thing. However, if the show takes off, it could lead to a renaissance in scripted programming. With less time slots, shows will have to be that much better to make the cut.
What bothers me is something that Poniewozik points out (and I never thought of): how NBC plans to gauge Leno's success. Not only is the show dirt cheap to produce (when compared to a drama), but ratings wise, if it pulls in 5 million viewers per night (by comparison, CSI: Miami averaged 14.22 million last season), NBC will be giddy. For argument's sake that essentially means close to no one can watch the show and NBC will smile.
That's scary. Especially if other networks follow suit. Why bother making anything worth watching if the bar for success is so low? Doesn't matter when the profit margin is the only concern. As a TV fan, the most terrifying quote came from Rick Ludwin, an exec at NBC: "We're not the National Endowment for the Arts. This is a business." Eeek. I fully understand that mentality but is Leno at 10 the right business model? Certainly not for all the networks... I hope.
However, as Poniewozik puts it, whether he fails or succeeds, Leno is the future:
The other problem is how this'll affect Conan. The two shows are fighting for guests and the potential looms for both to plummet because of Leno. This could bury NBC. The other factor is do people even want this at 10 PM? NBC is pushing the country's desire for comedy in Leno's ad campaigns, but another point that Poniewozik makes is what will work at 10? What works at 12:30 doesn't work at 11:30 and so on.
If I were Leno, I'd feel insulted. He's been tasked not with winning (although I'm sure it's a personal goal of his) but rather with just getting by. As a future, I wouldn't expect anybody to be happy about that. Settling for mediocrity that just barely makes the grade is kind of a lousy outlook, even if it does make sure the checkbook is balanced. We should be looking ahead to find new things that work and instead, NBC is remaking "a 17-year-old version of a half-century-old franchise."