×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Can NBC Escape Latenight PR Mess?

Somewhere, Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin — hell, a whole lot of NBC alumni, not all of them named Jeff — should be laughing, or at least smiling.

The New York Times is the latest news outlet to pile on and mildly advance the story that Jay Leno will be replaced by Jimmy Fallon, most likely some time in 2014.

Yet as one would think NBC might have learned by now, there is absolutely no way to do anything involving a change in latenight that does not turn into a whopping public-relations nightmare unless the guy you are replacing comes to you and says, “I really want to spend more time…” A) playing comedy clubs; B) enjoying my car collection; C) at home, counting large stacks of money; or D) any combination of the above.

Now, to go back a few years, even casual observers might recall when faced with this multiple-choice question, Leno chose E) shop myself to other networks, which set off the panic that ultimately led to his 10 p.m. NBC talkshow — you know, the one doing better most nights than the current crop of NBC dramas.

Leno might have a change of heart, but banking on that to save the network’s bacon — and keep its PR department from drinking Maalox out of the bottle — is sort of like betting on three No. 16 seeds to advance in the NCAA tournament.

The real mystery, amid all of this, is why on Earth network honchos — faced with as much bad PR as they’re already garnering — would brave wading into the treacherous waters of latenight at this juncture. Does Jimmy Fallon really have so many inviting options that he has to be handed “The Tonight Showright now, or they’ll risk losing him? And does anyone at NBC really think Fallon — while almost certainly skewing younger — will do markedly better than Leno, especially if the network continues to struggle in primetime?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the only real strategy that would make sense at this point would be to treat Leno like the Pope: It’s a lifetime gig, unless he decides otherwise.

But perhaps I’m overthinking all this. The Times’ Bill Carter hasn’t written a latenight book in a couple of years, and Conan O’Brien is slated to perform at the upcoming White House Correspondents Dinner in April. Maybe the network just wants to give the two of them — and the rest of us — something to write about and joke about, respectively. (O’Brien’s TBS show, incidentally, is dark this week, but those with a taste for the perverse might be inclined to tune in when he returns this Monday.)

The bottom line is until the network definitively settles this question — in a manner that will quiet the speculation, and not just punt it down the road — the Spanish term for the network’s Peacock is going to be pinata.

More TV

  • Emilia Clarke

    Emilia Clarke Says She's Been Pressured to Do Nude Scenes After 'Game of Thrones'

    Emilia Clarke revealed that she’s been pressured to do nude scenes on projects following her role as the occasionally nude Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones.” Now a seasoned actor, Clarke is quick to shut down producers who won’t respect her boundaries. “I’m a lot savvier with what I’m comfortable with, and what I am [...]

  • CBS Makes Streaming News Available to

    CBS Makes Streaming News Available to Affiliates

    Any news junkie in need of a live-Information fix can toggle on to any number of streaming news outlets. Now, TV stations affiliated with CBS can do the same. CBS News told affiliates in a memo Tuesday that it would allow them to use live coverage from its CBSN streaming-video hub to keep news events [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    The Star of 'The Mandalorian:' Baby Yoda

    SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for the first two episodes of “The Mandalorian,” if wish to be surprised you do, only annoyance will you find.  BB-8 and the Ewoks can step aside with the latest expansion of the “Star Wars” universe with Disney Plus’s “The Mandalorian.” There’s a new addition to the long list [...]

  • Vikings S4 Finale

    'Vikings' Sequel Series Set at Netflix From Michael Hirst, Jeb Stuart

    Fans of the History series “Vikings” rejoice! Netflix has ordered the follow up series titled “Vikings: Valhalla,” which will be set 100 years after the conclusion of the original show. The sixth and final season of “Vikings” on History is set to debut on Dec. 4. “Valhalla” will be executive produced by “Vikings” creator Michael [...]

  • Olympics

    NBCUniversal Sets Molly Solomon to Oversee Olympics Production, Replacing Jim Bell

    NBC’s Tokyo Olympics has a new contestant. Molly Solomon, a veteran sports producer who has been with NBC since 1990, has been tapped as the new executive producer of NBCUniversal’s Olympics broadcast, one of the most important production jobs at the Comcast-owned media conglomerate. She begins her new role immediately, with just months to go [...]

  • Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci Join Showtime

    Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci Join Showtime 'Yellowjackets' Pilot

    Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” pilot is rounding out its cast. The network has announced that “Camping” star Juliette Lewis and original “Addams Family” actor Christina Ricci have boarded the project as series regulars, joining already announced cast members Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown. “Yellowjackets” tells the story of a team of talented high school [...]

  • Kevin Hart Fatherhood

    Kevin Hart Sets Netflix Docu-Series 'Don't F--k This Up'

    Kevin Hart is expanding his partnership with Netflix with a new six-part documentary series named “Don’t F–k This Up.” Hart’s Hartbeat Productions will produce alongside Lionsgate, Makemake, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Magical Elves, with the show set to debut on Netflix on Dec. 27.  It will follow the comedian’s day-to-day lifestyle as he tackles what [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content