654 The Nighttime Drama Kings
Leno, O'Brien, Letterman.
Dave was truly funny when he worked for NBC. NBC didn't give him a chance to continue, so he went to CBS, where he's still truly funny. And after 17 years has finally risen to number one in the ratings. He hasn't been hurt by disclosure that he parks really really close to some of his staff members. So far, no paternity charges. This kind of publicity is good for ratings.
O'Brien was pretty funny as a writer on Saturday Night Live. He was sort of funny on Late Night. He's not at all funny on the Tonight Show.
Leno was and is funny no matter where he works -- stage, TV, whatever.
When he started on Tonight, the show was already king of the ratings and it stayed there until O'Brien took over.
Now O'Brien's out with a 45 million dollar severance, some of which goes to his staff, which followed him to the coast from New York expecting sustained employment. And, presumably, Leno's back at the Tonight Show.
Complicated. And stupid.
NBC promised O'Brien the program so they could keep him under contract. They gave him a start date five years before the fact. Now, what to do with Leno? Give him a five night a week show at 10 PM. The show's terrific, but it's a ratings bomb. Why do such a thing to so valuable a money maker for the network? Talk shows are way cheaper to produce than the dramas and sitcoms everyone else runs. A real money saver.
Except now, after all this, it means spending much more money to get four or five shows ready for prime time in no time. Shooting costs, script costs, crew costs, actor costs, producers, etc., etc. Ad that to the O'Brien severance and what have you saved? Not even face.
It'll be good to see Jay in the spot where we want to see him and where we're used to seeing him. But can he regain the number one spot that Conan lost to Letterman? Probably for the first week. People will tune in just to say they tuned in. Can he sustain the position? Maybe. But NBC's been no help with that. They make Leno look like a shark, which he may be. But he's the funniest shark in the sea.
--Let's quote former President Bush on this one, the election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate from Massachusetts. "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie." Now, please do what the REAL Brownie did: quit.
--This guy's a Brownie with some evil drug baked inside. Not pot. More likely poisoned tea.
--Guy next door has one of those fancy new iPhones. He can do anything on the web, get driving directions, read the paper, all on his phone. Two things it doesn't do too well, though: making and receiving calls.
(Note to readers: Your correspondent worked for NBC for a long time and knows most of the players in this drama. Including the one that should have been mentioned and wasn't: Aging wunderkind Jeff Zucker.)
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®