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NBC's Jay Leno mistake makes good business sense for CBS

Television critics and bloggers, totally distracted by the Bright Shiny Light that is NBC's Jay Leno disaster, totally forgot to ask CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler about David Letterman having used CBS's airwaves last October to sway a whole country's worth of potential jurors when he presented his version of an alleged extortion attempt against him by a CBS News guy.

Instead they wanted to hear Tassler review the latest episode of "NBC: Exploring New Ways to Get It Wrong."

In this episode, NBC is expected to announce any day now it's moving Jay Leno back to late night after its disastrous "Comedy at 10: It's About Time" campaign in which Jay was taken off "The Tonight Show" so that Conan O'Brien could fumble half of Jay's late night audience, and put Jay on at 10 five nights a week, where he could increase CBS's ad revenue noticeably in the hour.

"We looked at the opportunity; we saw we can get a bigger share of the advertising revenue - which we have," Tassler explained, adding "10 o'clock has been good business for us" with shows like "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist."

Critics played along, wondering why CBS told its talent to boycott Leno's show when "it seems like it would be to your advantage to want Leno to be there forever."

Another sought her "genuine thoughts" about "this mess that NBC has created for itself." In one scenario making the rounds late last week, Leno would be moved back to late night, once again following late local newscasts, only his show would be just 30 minutes long, followed by Conan on "The Tonight Show" which would pushed back by half an hour, thus bringing to an end NBC's experiment in cheap programming at 10 with a Leno-hosted talk show.

Tassler reminded them that in the previous episode of "NBC: Exploring New Ways to Get It Wrong" NBC had declared the scripted-series model dead at 8 o'clock.

"If we can hearken back to when there was that grand proclamation about 8 o'clock at NBC - [you] all wrote that 8'oclock was over....they were going to have a whole different strategy developing [reality programming] for 8 o'clock. And then along came 10 o'clock and they were going to have a whole different strategy for 10 o'clock."

Tassler said she had "the most trouble with" NBC's efforts to argue its own problems were part of a larger industry failure.

"We are enjoying success with new hit shows, as is ABC, as is Fox. At the end of the day it was an experiment that obviously did not work."

NBC's Press Tour at-bat comes Sunday, during which it is expected to announce at least some of those 10 new drama pilots its suits have been talking about, including remakes of the Brit drama "Primetime Suspect" and American drama "Rockford Files."

All in all, NBC will develop plenty of dramas with which to fill its 10 p.m. timeslot, Tassler said.

In their enthusiasm to discuss NBC's disastrous 10 p.m. experiment, TV critics even asked comics Dana Gould, Sandra Bernhard and Paul Provenza to weigh in, during a Q&A session for a comedy show they're doing for CBS-owned cable network Showtime..

"You know it was folly because of the size of the reward the guy got for thinking it up," Gould chimed in. "It was a miserable idea - maybe this truckload of money will straighten you out."

NBC affiliates have been grousing about the lousy lead-in audience Leno's 10 p.m. show is lending their 11 p.m. local newscasts. Moving Leno back to late night might fix one problem, but it remains to be seen whether Conan would accept a claustrophobic new NBC late night lineup. There's some speculation he might fall into the open arms of Fox. Maybe that's because one Fox source was busy telling the press last Friday that while the network thought Conan would be a good fit, it would watch from the sidelines for now to see how the situation played itself out since Conan's under contract to NBC.

ABC appears to no longer be an option for Conan.

"With all due respect to Conan, we like the late night hand that we are currently playing," ABC was quoted as saying in a statement Friday.

After word of the talks with Leno and Conan got out last week, Leno had a field day with the news in his opening monologues. But Conan, who appears to have drawn the short straw, remained strangely mum though it was the biggest story in the pop-culture firmament.

Friday night, however, Conan finally cut loose, talking his studio audience through the various rumors that had been circulating:

*The Jay Leno Show is going to be canceled.

*Jay is moving back to 11:30 and I'm moving back to midnight.

*Both of our shows will be on at 11:30 running simultaneously on split screen.

*The Tonight Show will be an iPhone app and The Jay Leno Show will become an Xbox game.

*Jay and I are quitting both of our shows and co-starring in a new buddy drama called "Coco and The Chin."

*Jay and I will be joining the cast of "Jersey Shore" as a new character called "The Awkward Situation."

*I'm pregnant with Jay's baby.

*Jay's pregnant with my baby.

*We're both pregnant with Tiger Woods' babies.

*NBC is going to throw me and Jay in a pit with sharpened sticks. The one who crawls out alive get to leave NBC

"And yeah, trust me, that is an appealing proposition," Conan cracked.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 10, 2010; 2:40 AM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Next: Lisa's lost blog entry: NBC yanks Jay Leno from primetime


How about a half hour show with ten minutes of Leno monologue, ten minutes of O'Brien monologue, and the usual five minutes of commercials?

Followed by Carson reruns, which will attract a bigger audience than either of them.

Posted by: RossPhx | January 10, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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