News

Leno move may be good for NBC, but not viewers

Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times (MCT)

NBC would like you to believe that its strange scheme to install Jay Leno in a weeknight show at 10 p.m. is a bold stroke of prime-time genius. Don't fall for it. With this move, a once-dominant network is waving the white flag of surrender.

By asking Leno to take the ball and run with the 10 p.m. slot Monday through Friday, the beleaguered Peacock is essentially admitting that it no longer has the resources, the innovative know-how or the brainpower to produce quality late-night dramas.

So sad. So pathetic. This is NBC, after all - the network that gave us cutting-edge 10 p.m. shows such as "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere," "ER," "Law & Order" and "Homicide: Life on the Street."

What's next - infomercials at 9?

This, of course, will be something completely new for prime time - a network airing the same show every night at the same time. And there are advantages for NBC. First and foremost, it prevents Leno from bolting to another network. Think of how embarrassing it would have been for Leno to set up shop at, say, ABC and then beat up on incoming "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien every night.

Most of all, it's cheap, cheap, cheap. Even with the gargantuan salary NBC undoubtedly had to fork over to keep Leno in the fold, it costs much less to put on a late-night gabfest than a quality scripted drama. In this era of corporate downsizing, that's music to the ears of a numbers-crunching bean counter.

Earlier this week, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker hinted in a news conference that this kind of move just might represent the future of network television. "Can we continue to program 22 hours of prime time?" Zucker wondered. "Can we afford to program seven nights a week?"

By installing Leno, with his lukewarm humor, at 10 p.m. weeknights, NBC essentially chops five hours off the 22. Whew, that was easy. Where else can we cut?

But perhaps it's asking too much of NBC - a company wrestling with budget deficits and layoffs - even to attempt to develop quality hit shows. This is a network, after all, that in recent years, has failed miserably at that mission, aside from a minor breakthrough here or there.

The fall season, for example, has been a stupendous embarrassment. An ill-conceived remake of talking-car drama "Knight Rider" sputtered and stalled. A pre-Thanksgiving variety special hosted by Rosie O'Donnell was a wretched stink bomb. The one-time marquee hit "Heroes" experienced a creative brain cramp and plunged in the ratings.

And do we even need to get into the train wrecks that are "My Own Worst Enemy," "Crusoe" and "Kath & Kim"? Just call it must-flee TV.

Things have gotten so bad for the Peacock that, earlier this week, Newsday columnist Verne Gay questioned whether NBC might be "the General Motors of network TV."

And looking ahead to midseason, it doesn't appear to be getting any better. NBC has announced that it will air its tired Donald Trump vehicle, "The Apprentice," in excruciating two-hour blocks. It will also offer yet another dance-competition show, along with a dating series from Ryan Seacrest called "Momma's Boys" and a hidden-camera prank show hosted by Howie Mandel. Remember, this is the network that gave us "The West Wing" and "Seinfeld." Sad, just sad.

On second thought, maybe it's not such a bad idea to air Leno five nights a week in prime time. Obviously, holding NBC programmers responsible for coming up with something fresh, innovative, and original is like putting explosives in the hands of children.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.