1155 No Body Cares or Peacocks Coming Home to Roost
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Right about now, the folks in Philadelphia’s defensively and needlessly tall Comcast building are probably wondering why they bothered buying NBC.
And the folks in whatever they’re next going to call the GE/RCA building in New York are wondering what strangeness is going to befall them next.
Meantime, GE, the seller, is laughing all the way to the bank where it will deposit $14 billion in unmarked small bills now still stuffed inside a U-Haul.
NBC has trouble at both ends of the day and in the middle.
The Tonight Show soap opera continues. They could turn this into a daytime serial and do better in the ratings.
Leno’s in but he won’t last. He lasted. Leno’s out, but we’ll put him on at 10:30. Conan’s in. Conan’s out. Leno’s back in but he won’t last. He’s lasting. Fallon’s in but the deal’s not done yet.
The Today show soap opera, another potential daytime drama, continues. Gumbel, Paulie, Norville, Couric, Lauer, Vieira, Curry, Guthrie. The show is two hours. No, it’s two hours with a third hour called “Later Today.” No, it’s two hours. No, it’s three hours. No it’s four hours.
Today Show transitions used to be fairly smooth, at least most of the time. Gumbel to Lauer; Couric to Vieira. With Vieira leaving, there comes a quandary. How can you possibly put Ann Curry, seasoned but intensely serious veteran correspondent, into the chair, but... after all the time she’s waited for the chance, how can you not?
Too stiff for the frivolous stuff, they say. The odd thing is that Ann can work a crowd outside Studio 1A as well as Hulk Hogan or Regis. But in a light-topic interview, she sometimes seems like she’s serving detention in the principal’s office.
What’s next, Roker flying solo? Hey, wait. That might actually work so they’ll never do it. Or a duet with Roker and Anderson Cooper. Nah. That would work, too, so forget about it. Anyone still have Ryan Seacrest’s phone number?
Both ends and the middle: Falling ratings in the morning, no ratings in prime time and continued great ratings in late night? What can we do to screw up the Tonight Show that we haven’t already done?
David Sarnoff’s vision for RCA/NBC was simple and it worked: supply everything needed between performer and audience. Microphones, cameras, transmitters, receivers and the programs they carry. (Throw in some extraneous stuff like record players and the records they play, and -- for some unknown reason -- washing machines.)
GE’s vision for its acquisition of RCA was simple and it worked in spite of itself: Put a finance guy in charge and let him cut cut cut. When Bob Wright arrived at 30 Rock, he didn’t know where the men’s room was. When he left, he had earned industry-wide respect and had learned fast how to make money and get ratings by putting on quality programs and junk, but good junk -- stuff people wanted to watch and did.
He left too early. Or maybe he timed it perfectly, because afterward, it was mostly downhill, just not at the present-day’s speed of light.
-- As I turned the car onto my block the other day, I found myself humming the State Farm “Like a Good Neighbor” jingle. Suddenly, I was joined in the car by Warren Buffett with the lizard on his shoulder, Flo, the guy who drops shopping carts on cars (along with his shopping cart) and The General. And as I passed her house, the State Farm agent who lives a few doors down stepped out of her house and flagged me down.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013