×

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

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?

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content