As the standoff with Conan O’Brien continued Thursday, NBC unveiled its post-“Jay Leno Show” 10 p.m. schedule, replacing the yakker with three scripted skeins in the hour this spring.
Sources close to the situation say O’Brien’s camp continues to await a formal proposal in legalese from the Peacock on settling out of O’Brien’s contract to host “The Tonight Show.” That pact includes a mammoth penalty in the $45 million range if the Peacock were to yank O’Brien from the show. NBC’s position is believed to be that O’Brien is making the decision to bolt the show rather than accept NBC’s plan to move it to 12:05 a.m. to make room for the relocated “Jay Leno Show” at 11:35 p.m.
Peacock insiders disputed Internet reports that a deal was already sealed for Leno to reclaim the “Tonight Show” mantle, though that appears to be the route that the network is heading. There was also speculation that O’Brien’s last “Tonight Show” would be Jan. 22, as the show has a long-skedded weeklong hiatus set for the following week. Sources said there’d been no such determination and the situation remained incredibly fluid as of late Thursday. O’Brien is said to have every intention of continuing to do his show while the behind-the-scenes wrangling plays out.
Ironically, O’Brien has logged some of the best numbers of his seven-month “Tonight Show” tenure during the past three days as the controversy rages over NBC’s decision to push “Tonight” show back a half-hour to make room for Leno. On Tuesday, the show after O’Brien released his impassioned statement rejecting NBC’s proposal, “Tonight” delivered a 1.7 rating in adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s overnight metered markets, a 70% hike over his average for the fourth quarter.
On Wednesday, “Tonight” posted a 1.8, handily beating CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” (1.0). Letterman spent much of Wednesday’s show berating NBC, and NBC U chief Jeff Zucker in particular, for the O’Brien-Leno brouhaha.
NBC’s 10 p.m. sked overhaul, effective March 1 following the net’s Winter Olympics coverage, calls for “Law and Order” to move into the Monday vacancy, while new dramedy “Parenthood” takes Tuesday and “Law and Order: SVU” heads to Wednesday. The Jerry Seinfeld-produced comedy-reality skein “The Marriage Ref” gets the Thursday 10 p.m. slot while “Dateline NBC” takes over Friday. “Marriage Ref” will get a sneak preview on Feb. 28 following the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
With “The Marriage Ref” no longer on Sundays, as originally planned, NBC will instead air the new reality skein “Minute to Win It” at 8 p.m. “Parenthood,” which had initially been slated for Monday 9 p.m., will bow March 2 behind a two-hour “Biggest Loser” — the best sendoff the Peacock can give a new show at the moment.
On Wednesdays, net will rely heavily on “Law & Order: SVU,” airing repeats at 9 p.m. and originals at 10 p.m., starting March 3.
On Fridays, “Dateline NBC” gets a two-hour block at 9 p.m., following the launch of Lisa Kudrow’s geneology-themed “Who Do You Think You Are?” starting March 5.
“Friday Night Lights” then slides into the 8 p.m. slot, replacing the reality show, on April 30.
“Minute to Win It” follows rock and roll chef Guy Fieri as he pits contestants against each other in tackling games involving household items. Universal Media Studios and Firday TV produce.
As for Saturdays, NBC will rely on a one-hour repeat of “The Biggest Loser” at 8, followed by “Law & Order” and yet another encore episode of “Law & Order: SVU” at 10.
That’s three hours of “SVU” on NBC’s 22-hour sked, for anyone keeping count.
NBC program planning/scheduling exec VP Mitch Metcalf said he was proud of the schedule “given our current situation.”
“It strikes the right balance of scripted, unscripted, new and returning shows,” he said. “And it’s perfect timing that this schedule will launch immediately following the Olympics.”
In a statement forwarded by NBC, Peacock affiliate chief Michael Fiorile said he was pleased with the post-Olympics schedule, calling it a “compelling mix of programs.”