Hey NBC, Time to Bring Back ‘The Jay Leno Show’?

Hey NBC, Time Bring Back 'The

Digesting the ratings for “Hannibal” – which considering the list of ingredients, including a presold title, heavy marketing and mostly positive reviews, have to be considered disappointing – one wonders if someone at NBC is thinking, “Hey, how about bringing back ‘The Jay Leno Show’?”

As you might recall, the Leno premise was not about winning in the ratings competition at 10 p.m., but altering the network financial model and, in essence, losing less expensively. And with a tepid audience for such a handsome-looking dramatic series, it’s worth noting NBC could have probably produced several weeks of Leno for roughly the same cost as that “Hannibal” pilot.

At the time, NBC’s real screw-up was in not fully and honestly explaining its strategy to the media and affiliates, with the latter rebelling as the lead-in to their late local news dragged them down. In hindsight, the network’s initial idea – putting Leno at 8 p.m., after NBC had floated devoting that hour strictly to reality shows and game shows in 2006 – might have softened the blow, although execs still would have needed to do a better job of tamping down expectations.

The main problem for NBC right now is the network has sunk to a place where it’s difficult to get enough traction to push upward. Granted, huge hits have come from cable networks with even smaller audience bases, but they’re not faced with churning out a full week’s worth of original programming in primetime, which makes the task more daunting.

NBC can spin the numbers all it wants, but unless “Hannibal” builds in the coming weeks, saying it topped tune-in for fast casualties like “Do No Harm” amounts to case of damnation with faint praise. Nor should anyone fall for the old “DVR ratings should really pull up our midterm grades, Dean Wormer” deflections.

“Critics say reality, game shows at 8 p.m. show NBC’s given up,” read a headline back when then-NBC chief Jeff Zucker introduced the plan, which didn’t formally materialize, in its amended form, until the network became desperate enough to try it so as not to lose Leno to a rival. (For giggles, here’s a link to all that happened by the one-year anniversary of Leno’s premiere, as well as my original review of his primetime foray.)

An upcoming documentary about Watergate reminded me of the Richard Nixon reelection slogan “Nixon Now — More Than Ever.” Substitute “Leno,” and the ad might still apply.

So … better late than never? And is that a neatly pressed white handkerchief you’re holding, Dr. Lecter, or a white flag of surrender?

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  1. mamamitzvah says:

    I will never forgive NBC for pulling Life for this ridiculous plan. It was possibly one of the best shows I ever watched. It also spelled the end for Law & Order. I am not sure what is going on at NBC but there has to be something novel that they can put on. Jay Leno is not the answer.

  2. mattheww says:

    The fallacy here is assuming that The Jay Leno Show would get the same “tepid” rating as Hannibal in 2013.

  3. Joan Rivers says Jay Leno is “bored”. I think he’s also getting lazy. I write for the best radio prep sheet in America, RadioOnline.com. On Wednesday, at 3:00 pm West Coast time, I posted this joke:

    “Some missile experts are substantiating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s claim that the DPRK has the capability to launch nuclear missiles which could hit Los Angeles. I guess this explains why Jimmy Fallon wants to move the “Tonight Show” to New York City.”

    During his Thursday night monologue, Jay did this joke:

    “Some experts believe North Korea may have the missile capability to reach Los Angeles. That’s why NBC is moving “The Tonight Show” to New York. Of course. It makes perfect sense.”

    Coincidence? Maybe. I don’t think so.

    The jokes I write are intended solely for the use of the radio stations who subscribe to the RadioOnline prep sheet, and are to be used SOLELY on radio. That’s the deal subscribers sign up for.

    If you want to see Jay’s jokes a day before he uses them, I suggest you subscribe.


  4. Sharon says:

    I tried to watch Hannibal but the closed captioning was monstrous. I finally gave up after 25 minutes. It may have been a good show but I won’t go back to it. NBC seems to have a lot of trouble with close captioning programs. I may take it up with the FEDS> They’ll get a hefty fine but I doubt it will hurt them or that they’ll listen. I prefer Leno much more than Fallon.

  5. Joe says:

    It’s not really about Hannibal. It’s about debuting a new series opposite “Scandal.” Who does that????

    • Brian Lowry says:

      “Scandal’s” doing just fine, but just to keep things in perspective, it was watched by 8 million people Thursday (and “Hannibal” a little over half that). That leaves about 290 million in the U.S. who resisted the dinner invitation. And thanks for the comment.

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