Really NBC? Do you remember when you were THE groundbreaking network? The Cosby Show and Cheers changed sitcoms as well as the personality of our nation. You took a risk with Seinfeld and launched the standard of half hour comedy shows. Friends defined national trends for our country for almost a decade. Carson and Saturday Night Live set the standard for edgy, irreverent and original skits, monologues and political satire. Letterman and Conan broke barriers with their own take on the genre and gave new life to the late night.
You did all of this while CBS was cranking out shows for the aging boomer and senior citizen (Murder She Wrote and CSI) and while ABC was struggling to do anything original at all besides Monday Night Football.
So Carson retires and you bring in Leno. No big deal, it was kind of a natural progression. I don’t personally remember that far back, but apparently Leno used to kill as a comedian and as Carson’s ‘fill-in’ guy. He did steal the Headlines bit from Letterman, but there is a lot of borrowing in comedy anyway. Leno grew stale over the years, in my opinion. The headlines were not quite enough to keep me excited as a fan, but at least I could watch Letterman during Leno’s slot and turn back to NBC for Conan who I have always loved.
But, what the heck NBC!? You were the biggest, best and most original network and then you just stopped trying. Why would a network that has modeled doing new and unique things completely change directions. You move Conan earlier which seemed a good move, but you forced him to tone his show down. No more Triumph, no more bear, no more manatees. This made Conan less funny and less interesting. But to top it off, you took 5 primetime hours a week and gave them to Leno, who hasn’t done anything original for years.
Then you declare a crisis when Leno show has lower ratings than expected, the NBC news loses viewers because Leno is leading into it, and Conan loses viewers too. You just gave a coveted hour each night to a show that would never be original, a show that conflicted with the demographic of the viewers who watch the shows leading into it, and what do you plan to do about it? You plan to move Leno back to the normal Tonight Show time and bump the actual Tonight Show to tomorrow? You make Jimmy Fallon back up into the Carson Daly timeslot just so you can keep Leno on for a half hour a night. A half hour when he is going to interview stars and get bigger billing than the shows that need the billing and the starts after it. WEAK!
Name me president of NBC and here is what I do. I recognize that ABC and CBS are programming for either Senior Citizens or People who think that Two and a Half Men is a funny show, either way the audience of these networks is not looking for original programming. Fox is showing tired reality shows and singing competitions while having a couple of decent series like 24 on. NBC has the opportunity to make a smarter, edgier comedy that does have a huge following and interest main stream. At NBC, you need to push off at least one more Law & Order to basic cable. Then you need to grab the Mitchel Hurwitz’s, the Bill Lawrence’s, the Joss Whedon’s and give them free reign to realize their creative visions and create new and interesting programming. Pull the reigns off of Conan and Jimmy Fallon. Bring in some people from the USA network and Comedy Central who are spearheading interesting new projects. Keep the Office, Community, and maybe Parks and Rec, but create sometime new and interesting. You are already the last place network, so you have nothing to lose.
What I just don’t get is how a network that is struggling decides to take the least original thing that they do and give it prime billing in the late night lineup, right after it failed in the primetime slot. Make a decision NBC, either give Leno the Tonight Show back and admit that you don’t care about originality, or cut him loose and make some real changes.