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Jerry Seinfeld defends NBC in Conan/Leno switcheroo

Winter TV Press Tour 2010

Jerry Seinfeld, whose new comedy/reality series, "The Marriage Ref," NBC will launch right after the Closing Ceremonies of the upcoming Winter Olympics -- a network first, BTW -- has absolutely no patience with TV critics/bloggers/reporters/columnists who are sobbing buckets over poor Conan O'Brien and what that mean old NBC is trying to do to him, moving his "The Tonight Show" to 12:05 a.m. weeknights so they can get Jay Leno the heck out of primetime before their TV stations declare war on the network.

So when Seinfeld appeared at Winter TV Press Tour 2010 to plug his new show, and one of those critiblogortumnists asked him if he would stay at NBC, were he Conan, "after having these things done to you by the network," Seinfeld whipped out his ruler and rapped the guy's knuckles.

Figuratively speaking, of course, and with his tooth grin planted firmly on face signaling it was "comedy." And yet, the entire ballroom's worth of critiblogortumnists reacted in a big way, as if Seinfeld had ripped off his bespoke suit to reveal that he is, in real life, a Catholic school nun.

"What did the network do to him?" Seinfeld snapped.

"Well, they made him a follow-up act to Jay and now they're trying to do that again," the critiblogortumnist who had posed the question answered sheepishly, sounding sort of like a pimply-faced boy who'd just been caught by Mother Superior with his hand in the cookie jar.

"No -- he got 'The Tonight Show'," Seinfeld corrected, sternly.

"I don't think anyone is preventing people from watching Conan...Once they give you the cameras, it's on you. I can't blame NBC for having to move things around," Seinfeld continued -- still brooking no nonsense.

"Conan has a chance to destroy everybody. Go ahead -- you are out there! ," Seinfeld said. "I don't think anyone has done anything to Conan. I hope he stays. I think he's terrific. Jay and Conan worked great. They should keep it."

Another critiblogortumnist tried to stomp his little feet and argue with Seinfeld, peevishly reminding the comic that his wildly popular NBC primetime series, "Seinfeld" began as a series of short-order specials, but did not become a full-fledged series for quite a while and was in danger of cancellation more than once before finally catching on with the masses.

In the interest of accuracy, what the guy actually said was:

"You talk about NBC having not done much to Conan...but you know if NBC had pulled the plug after five months on 'Seinfeld'--"

That's as far as he got before Seinfeld interrupted:

"They tried to," he said.

"Well, they didn't," the critiblogortumnist said dangerously, adding, "and, thankfully, wiser heads prevailed back at the time they realized it needed to be - "

"Well, I have a lot of you people to thank, to tell you the truth," Seinfeld interrupted - again. Interrupting with a compliment is extremely effective way to win an argument, turns out.

"It was a lot of the critics that kept us on the air. But then, we had good demographics," Seinfeld said, continuing his lesson to all those critiblogortumnists in the room who were still in diapers when "Seinfeld" was on NBC.

"You've got to hit the ball. They can't hit the ball for you. They can only give you the bat," Seinfeld said, in re NBC. "There's no rules in show business."

Some portion of Seinfeld's Q&A session was actually spent discussing "The Marriage Ref" which will move into its regular Sunday at 8 timeslot on March 14 after that post-Closing Ceremonies preview on Feb 28.

Seinfeld and the executive producer Ellen Rakieten, and the Marriage Ref, aka comic Tom Papa, explained the show will involve actual married couples who have volunteered to be shot having an actual fight in return for no cash payment, and the video will be watched in a studio by an audience and a revolving bunch of funny people -- Larry David, Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfeld, etc. - who will discuss the merits of both sides after which Papas will make his final ruling and the winner of the argument will be awarded some very stupid prize, the likes of which Seinfeld declined to discuss.

These fight will be about things not marriage-killing - like "Why did you cheat on me with all those party girls, Tiger?" -- but more along the lines of like, "Should we have Fluffy cremated, buried, or stuffed now that she has passed over the Rainbow Bridge?" or "Why is your Harley parked in the living room, darling?"

But, before long, some critiblogortumnist in the hall remembered that Seinfeld was Leno's very first guest on his very first broadcast of his soon-to-be-yanked 10 p.m. show which, naturally meant Seinfeld was the final word on what exactly went wrong.

"This was...the right idea at the wrong time and it was not a bad idea," Seinfeld proclaimed.

"I'm proud of NBC that they had the guts to try something so different and original. And you know, now you go on and do something else."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 11, 2010; 11:41 AM ET
Categories:  TV News , Winter TV Press Tour 2010  
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Comments

Could not agree more with Seinfeld's comments re Leno and O'Brien. Interesting experiment, gave it a shot, didn't work, moving on. I'm sure Leno and O'Brien would like for everything to just be settled so they can get on with it.

Personally, I think Fox is a *much* better fit for O'Brien than NBC. So, let O'Brien jump to Fox at 11/10; Leno goes back to 1130/1030, followed by Fallon against Craig Fergusen (Ferguson?).

Craig's the best celeb interviewer ever, but I'm getting more than a little bored with his puppets and his unnatural obsession with his tatoos, so a little look at Fallon might be a nice break.

Posted by: lanehatcher | January 11, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Bring back Dick Cavett. : )

Posted by: jwerthan | January 12, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

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