Late night comedy is serious, serious business

By Savannah Hall

The prestigious peacock is no longer. NBC, formerly known as the more intelligent and esteemed network, has become cheap and tawdry. A few months ago NBC moved late night king, Jay Leno to a primetime spot in an effort to produce a cheaper alternative to the sitcom as well as give Leno something to do. Like others before him, he passed the torch to Conan O’Brien to host The Tonight Show, leaving Conan’s Late Night spot for Jimmy Fallon.

NBC hoped that Leno’s celebrity status and already established brand would create a successful primetime show. Producing one and paying one celebrity salary for five nights a week is more cost effective than producing five different shows. They figured that if Leno had good ratings at 11:30 p.m. ET, moving him to 10 p.m. ET would only bring more people.

A number of problems came from this move, not only poor ratings on Leno’s new show. They failed to realize that those who watch late night television are not necessarily those who watch primetime shows. But because people stopped tuning into Leno, they weren’t watching their local news after the primetime spot, maddening NBC affiliates.

To add insult to injury they were having a harder time getting celebrities to sit down with Leno. Other networks did not want their leading ladies and lads to appear on Leno, which sometimes aired against the very same show the guest was promoting. These celebrities are the show’s bread and butter, which is built around such interviews. Sure NBC could use this new show as a platform to promote their shows and their partners’ products. As of right now NBC is owned by General Electric, the world’s largest company, which also owns Bravo, Oxygen, Telemundo and Universal. So they were guaranteed to have the stars working with those networks and movie studios, but that could not solve all their problems. Since NBC primetime was destroyed by The Jay Leno Show they lost many stars and much celebrity power. Other than Universal Studios, those other networks are not on the top of the audience’s wish list.

Now they want to move Leno back to his original time and shift the other shows back. Conan did not agree with this, refused to take the demotion and is now left out in the cold. Conan lacks Leno’s celebrity so NBC seems to not care about his future. Which appears harsh, but they have to save an entire network from disaster. It’s only right that they would reinstate Leno to try and return things to the way they were before their major miscalculation.

NBC stepped out on a limb trying to change their programming into a cheap commodity. They figured society has become so celebrity-obsessed that viewers would abandon their primetime favourites to watch Leno sit down with various stars. It’s somewhat comforting to know that society still demands quality in their primetime shows. This left NBC in a tight spot because now they are scrambling to fix their disaster of a network.

To make matters worse, Comcast and GE are in a business deal that will leave the controversial cable giant, Comcast, with a 51 per cent stake in NBC Universal. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.