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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

Leno Apparently Wins for Losing While Conan Loses for Losing

We here at Monsters of Television have no love for Jay Leno’s comedy. The only thing staler than the stand-up’s jokes are jokes about the size of his chin, his denim fetish, and the unintelligible squealing people do when they do “impressions” of him. So news that NBC might be cancelling (or scaling back) Leno’s 10pm comedy wasteland, The Jay Leno Show, driven by the network ordering a number of new pilots of scripted programming (none produced by John Wells, to be sure), brought us considerable pleasure.

And then TMZ had to go ruin it: Leno was returning, significantly less than victorious (but having performed up to NBC’s incredibly low expectations and killing news affiliates’ ratings) to his old time slot, leaving Conan out in the cold (we remain convinced that Conan never really wanted the gig anyway, but nervous schoolboy Jimmy Fallon was already promised Conan’s desk).

And then the New York Times had to go and (more or less) confirm it.

While much has been made of Leno’s potential probable return in the television branch of the blogosphere (yes, spheres have branches) already, any number of things are possible. It has been suggested that Leno will be on from 11:30 to 12 midnight, and then Conan’s The Tonight Show will continue (which seems to be the case). Or Leno may actually be scaled back during 10:00 to only a few shows a week (unlikely since they’d have to really be big event programming to draw in anyone aside from Leno diehards). Or, and this is our personal recommendation, NBC gives over the 10pm slot to a show that allows people to do horrible things to Jeff Zucker (like make him watch The Jay Leno Show on loop for hours on end) until they’re able to pull together a slate of shows other than Trauma and Mercy. (Would it be possible to somehow rush Rex Is Not My Lawyer? Please?)

The real firestorm will be this weekend at the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour. NBC’s presentation is Sunday, and with Ben Silverman gone and Zucker busy bronzing his new contract so no one can destroy it, Jeff Gaspin, chariman of NBC Universal Television, will attempt to answer questions, or, more likely, give non-answers about the state of NBC’s line-up after the Olympics are finished. Our good friend Alisa asked if we had seen anything about using USA Network’s programming in the 10pm slot. We haven’t, and we think it’s probably not too likely to happen. Here’s 2 reasons why:

  1. NBC already has the critical darling Friday Night Lights finishing its initial run on DirecTV, but wisdom says (though, NBC doesn’t really do wisdom) that NBC will hold back until the summer because the spring ratings for the show last season were dreadful.
  2. Perhaps more importantly though is that airing USA’s original programming would be all but admitting defeat for the broadcast network. A cable property would be seen as coming in and saving the network, and this isn’t baseball where drawing from the minors when you’re in trouble is somewhat acceptable (and NBC calling upon USA’s programming would be seen as exactly that). Additionally, with USA already moving its programming to various days of the week, at 10pm no less, it would just seem like NBC was a platform to advertise these shows from another network (albeit one that’s part of the same media conglomerate). Why watch NBC’s “More Colorful” programming when USA’s cast of welcomed characters seem way more colorful?

Although the we enjoy the possibility that pushing everyone back to make room for Leno in late night might inevitably send Carson Daly back to the stale pod whence he came, we also hope that Conan will demand out of his contact with NBC and go off to Fox or ABC (preferably Fox) and return to his wacky and surreal roots by opening the show with the thawing out of the Masturbating Bear from his carbonite cell (or, we pray, bring back Celebrity Secrets). Maybe Andy Richter can wear Leia’s bounty hunter outfit from Return of the Jedi. Juvenile? Yes. Funny? You bet.

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