"NBC makes money by having Jay Leno on its network."

By Jason Tanamor

When Jay Leno moved up to the prime time slot that typically airs dramas like "Law & Order" and its subsequent franchises "Law & Order: SVU," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (and soon to come – "Law & Order: Paperwork" – just kidding), network executives noted that, and I’m paraphrasing, even if Leno did not rake in the viewers as he did as "Tonight Show" host, it would still be a good move because the cost to produce his show versus a scripted one will pay itself off.

This is exactly what is happening. I’ve seen "The Jay Leno Show;" it’s exactly the same as it was when he had the "Tonight Show," only the name has been changed. Viewers are still accustomed to seeing a monologue that is well written, segments such as Headlines and guests with Leno’s typical interviewing style.

As for the "Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien," that’s pretty much the same as it was when he had "Late Night." The only difference is the earlier time slot. In a recent article on Reuters.com, "Jay Leno has shrugged off low ratings for his new prime time nightly TV talk show, saying NBC is making money with his switch from late night to earlier and he enjoys being an underdog in the race to get viewers."

Leno went on to say, "I'm told that if we can keep a 1.5 (rating), they (NBC) make $300 million a year; this is what they say. So we're a little above the 1.5, we're doing OK."

So what’s NBC whining about? According to the article, "NBC is currently bottom in overall audience terms of the four major U.S. TV networks but is not losing viewers so far in the 2009-10 season compared to the same time a year ago."

With a fledging network that hasn’t done well against the other networks, it’s no surprise that executives are fretting to do something outrageous. With programs such as "NCIS" mixed in with inexpensive ratings juggernauts like "Survivor," CBS is leading the charge for network programming.

NBC doesn’t have that luxury. The network is solely relying on Leno to bring the cows home instead of building a fleet of good, quality shows. When Leno was with the "Tonight Show," "Law & Order" helped him out. Now, he doesn’t have that help. Maybe Leno doing the same thing as he did on the "Tonight Show" isn’t what is best for Jay Leno. Or maybe, just maybe, NBC should be thankful it has Leno, because the network could not have him at all. Of course, there could always be a show called, "Law & Order: The Jay Leno Show."


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at jason@zoiksonline.com.

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