The Peacock, the Ginger, and the Chin

Jay Leno is officially destroying network television. And not just for NBC, I’m talking for everyone.

Thanks to the epic hissy fit he threw at the moment of his ousting from the Tonight Show throne and his subsequent takeover of the 10 PM one-hour spot on NBC, the network world has begun to implode.

In case you don’t know the story, Jay Leno was practically forced into retirement by NBC who wanted a younger demographic tuning in to their late night lineup. They know, as I know, that Leno’s jokes and bits were too tired and safe for the younger crowd. They know that Leno’s interview skills are absolutely horrible and completely sterile – that he strives to avoid controversy and will shut down at any instant of conflict with his guest.
Did I watch Leno? Yes. My wife liked Leno on the Tonight Show and I didn’t mind him all that much.
When the announcement was made that Conan would be taking over, however, we were both overjoyed. We loved watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien and we knew that Conan would continue to deliver his brand of humor (albeit slightly toned down) when he began his reign from the big chair. We found ourselves more excited for the emergence of Conan than disappointed for Leno’s departure. It was only in his latter days that I may have gotten my wife to crack a bit and admit that Jay’s stuff was getting lame. I won’t quote her on that, though.

When it came to pass that Leno was not being fired but rather rescheduled for the 10PM slot, I was outraged. NBC was so afraid that a disenfranchised Leno would leave for another network (citing mainly the empty Fox late slot or even axing Jimmy Kimmel out of his spot on ABC) and “take his audience with him” that they had to offer him something.
It is for this sin that NBC has suffered. A daily talk show at 10PM on a network is a horrible idea and everyone in the broadcasting community knew that it was a massive mistake. I called it when the announcement was made: NBC is going to hit the skids. No one is going to watch Leno. The other networks could run shots of a flaming pile of crap leading into the local 11PM news and they would probably pull better ratings (especially CBS, as long as they titled the show CSI: Piece of Flaming Crap. … Wait, isn’t that a show already? YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!)

The reality of the fallout was something very interesting, indeed. For once, people who were network junkies were clicking the remotes on those digital boxes and checking out shows like Sons of Anarchy and Men of a Certain Age. And, the people who were watching something else on another network are getting told by friends that they should be watching some cable show instead. Friends are heeding this advice and cable is reaping the rewards, and not just from the wounded and lame NBC time slot as it limps on down the road.
The problem was, the bullet in the thigh that is Leno hasn’t killed the network yet, but the bleeding is affecting the local NBC affiliates 11PM News. People who are tuning out from Leno aren’t tuning back in to the same channel to get their news where they would have previously stuck with whatever program they were watching on NBC (or other networks) into the 11 o’clock hour.
This is where things really get me because Leno, in this fashion, is hurting the little guy. The affiliate stations are suffering losses in ad revenue for their 11 o’clock news. Ad revenue from local programming and slots offered in some network shows is really how they make their scratch. Taking away the revenue of that half-hour’s worth of that programming due to crap ratings could very well cost someone (if not multiple people) their job. And, I don’t mean the people who sold the ad time. I mean loss in revenue = loss of jobs. Across the board.
In essence, Jay Leno’s rich stubborn ass might cause a check-to-check cameraman or production assistant to lose their income. He’ll probably just use the proceeds to buy another car.

Now, news hits that NBC has had enough of Leno dragging their ratings deep into an unrecoverable quicksand of death. It dropped last night that, after their Winter Olympic coverage ends, the 10PM Jay Leno Show will be no more.
I honestly squealed with joy as I read the headline, “Leno’s Future Up in the Air”. I was excited when I read about the looming cancellation.

I almost choked when I read that NBC may be moving him back to his original 11:35 time slot.

The deal would be thus: Leno at 11:35 in a half-hour program, then Conan with the Tonight Show at 12:05, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 1:05. At least, that’s the latest rumor courtesy of the AP Wire.

Note to NBC: This is not going to right the ship. If you continue to force Jay Leno on your viewers, you will lose them. The audience is finally starting to get used to the flow of the new late night lineup and you are going to shake things up again. People, especially your traditional late night audience, despise change.
I would like you to know that, if you do put Leno back on at 11:35, my wife and I have both agreed that we would be much better served watching the Colbert Report live rather than on the replay. Will we tune back in for Conan? Who knows. We’re both up early in the mornings and most of the time fall asleep before Conan’s second guest. We were giving you that extra half-hour of ratings. I’m sure that most people who actually watch network late night will probably feel the same.

Leno, at this point, seems to be the albatross around NBC’s neck. Rather than buck up some nuts and fire his sorry ass (preferably out of a cannon), the pussies/morons at 30 Rock would rather coddle him so that he doesn’t “take his audience with him” when he goes away.

NBC, you’re a respected news provider. It should not be a flash that LENO’S RATINGS SUCK. What exact audience will he be taking with him if he goes? A small piece of the Tonight Show pie? Hangers-on who are as-yet unsure of Conan’s awesomeness? Trifles. He’s not going to upset the balance of the universe. He’s going to go to another network, have the exact same lame-ass tired show he has now, and tank there. Why not pass the bomb off to someone else and save yourselves the trouble?

I’m sure you won’t. You’ll drag Conan down for the sake of a billionaire has-been stand-up comedian who you think has you by the short-and-curlys.
I say call his bluff. I say let the bastard go. Give Conan his due. And, remember how much this is hurting your local affiliates. Leno is essentially costing people their livelihood. Don’t be one of those companies.

Down with Leno.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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