It’s hard to avoid the ads for Jay Leno’s new show on NBC; they’re everywhere. And starting today, Leno will be everywhere as well — every weeknight, Monday through Friday, 10-11pm ET.
NBC is trumpeting the stripping of ‘The Jay Leno Show’ across prime time as a ‘new era in television.’ I can’t argue with them. Never before in the history of television has a network so publicly rolled over and played dead.
Sure, Leno won the ratings race with David Letterman during his long tenure as host of “The Tonight Show.” But that was because he played it safe. He was the host that didn’t offend…that didn’t stretch or try new things. Safe is always more palatable to the masses.
But palatable isn’t creative. In Leno’s 17 years with the program, “The Tonight Show” did not receive a single Emmy nomination for its writing. During the same time period, the writing staff for “The Late Show with David Letterman” was nominated 13 times. And in Leno’s final season, “The Tonight Show” didn’t even receive a farewell Emmy nod in its category.
NBC can tell us that Leno’s new show will bring “more comedy in the 10 o’clock hour,” but are we talking quantity…or quality? If NBC was committed to bringing us quality programming, they would legitimately counter-program Monday thru Friday, 10-11pm ET, instead of trying to solve their prime time problems ‘on the cheap’ with a recycled late-night format and an innocuous host.
Give your audience some credit, NBC. We’re not as dumb as you think we are. We see what you’re doing.
And thanks to a myriad of choices in prime time, we don’t have to watch it.