NBC’s Gaspin Makes Best of ‘Fluid Situation’

Although I’m not a fan of groupthink among journalists, the consensus out of NBC’s TV Critics Assn. day was that new NBC Universal TV Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin handled a difficult scenario as well as he possibly could.

Unveiling the network’s latenight strategy and the decision to relocate “The Jay Leno Show” after Feb. 12, Gaspin appeared straightforward in answering every question he could and was direct in saying where he couldn’t address what’s clearly a “fluid situation” given that all the talent isn’t on board yet.

Served up a softball about who was to blame for the network’s woes — with the fingers pointed at Ben Silverman and Gaspin’s boss, Jeff Zucker — Gaspin wryly joked, “Awesome question,” which drew a big laugh.

Perhaps foremost, Gaspin gave the impression that NBC has a firm hand at the tiller, and didn’t appear dismissive of the press, who have sensed a “What are you lookin’ at?” quality from NBC in the past, as if we’re crazy for questioning their strategy, which oftentimes looked more desperate than strategic.

There’s no easy solution to NBC’s current problems, and Gaspin acknowledged that he was less concerned about a quick fix than simply seeing signs of progress. He also admitted that even a revamped latenight that manages to keep both Leno and Conan O’Brien “couldn’t satisfy either with 100 percent of what they wanted.”

It’s not like Gaspin’s a neophyte, but this was still an extremely impressive performance under the circumstances.

My brother used to say he learned in law school that the first rule of criminal law was to admit to everything you know the prosecution can prove and “blame everything else on a dead guy.” The press did the blaming of dead guys for him, but Gaspin deftly handled the rest.

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