Posts tagged NBC

Coco’s last night to ruffle the Peacock’s feathers

Tonight marks the end of an era (a months-long era, but historical nonetheless)—Conan O’Brien will host his final episode of The Tonight Show, and the NBC late night/primetime experiment that went horribly wrong officially comes to a close. Now everything can go back to the way it was with 10 PM primetime programming returning to the Peacock network, and Jay Leno returning to host The Tonight Show, and Conan O’Brien going to…oh, wait…um…about that…

The most unfortunate part of all this is Conan’s departure. The terms of his buy-out were finalized early Thursday morning, and according to Variety includes severance packages for all staffers as well as:

O’Brien will have the opportunity to launch such a new late-night program starting Sept. 1, when a short non-compete window expires. (A new show would take at least that long to launch, insiders note.)

Despite previous speculation that NBC would pay less if O’Brien quickly landed another job, there is no “offset” clause in the deal. Indeed, even if O’Brien eventually signs with Fox or another net and receives a new salary, he’ll still get that $32 million payout — as long as he abides by the agreement.

In exchange for the $32 million payout, NBC execs got the concessions from O’Brien that they wanted “for a cooling-off period.”

Besides that noncompete window, stipulations include a disparagement clause that will limit what O’Brien can say in the press or on TV. As a result, O’Brien will likely lie low in the coming weeks and months and not give an interview on the circumstances, insiders said.

The disparagement clause also expires Sept. 1. On recent editions of “The Tonight Show,” O’Brien has made light of what he can or can’t say about NBC going forward. Insiders said he’s still allowed to poke fun at NBC on “Tonight” — but once that show goes dark, his lips are zipped.

O’Brien also won’t be able to bring the intellectual property that he created at NBC over the years, including even Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. But David Letterman faced the same thing — and found ways around it — when he left for CBS in 1993.

…so, what’s next for O’Brien? Fox seems to be the front runner, but a New York Times technology writer brought up Conan having a show on the Internet. Not a bad idea, although not as lucrative as TV of course. A consideration I came up with: if Fox doesn’t come through, Conan should entertain going the Bill Maher/HBO route. Get a daily or weekly show on one of the premium channels…the money may still not be as great, but he certainly would have more creative freedom. I do like the Internet idea, though, especially after reading David Carr’s column in The New York Times questioning the relevance of late-night talk shows given today’s immediate access to news/pop culture and the abundance of clip highlights available via the Internet post broadcast.

Anyway, I predict that tonight’s ratings will be impressive, maybe even record-breaking (guests include Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks and Neil Young)…and I also predict Conan and his remarkable hair will be back on our TV’s and/or computers come September 1.

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…Pop Culture Bites…Pop Culture Bites…Pop Culture Bites…

image source: justjared.com

  • Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester  were incredibly obnoxious at a New York City restaurant recently; at one point Meester told another customer to f*** off. Hmmm…sounds like that whole bitchy Blair Waldorf thing isn’t an act. —NY Post
  • The NBC late-night debacle looks to be coming to a close as reports claim that Conan will leave the network with a pay-out. Guess this means all the late-night talk show hosts better get in the last of their NBC/Leno jokes. —The Daily Beast

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Conan’s response…

With NBC’s intention to move The Tonight Show to 12:05 AM, Conan has responded that he will not host the show at that time-slot, as it is essentially no longer the ‘tonight’ show. Here is Conan’s official statement (from The New York Times):

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over “The Tonight Show” in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004, I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my “Tonight Show” in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the “Tonight Show” to 12:05 to accommodate the “Jay Leno Show” at 11:35. For 60 years, the “Tonight Show” has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the “Tonight Show” into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The “Tonight Show” at 12:05 simply isn’t the “Tonight Show.” Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the “Late Night” show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard, and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of “The Tonight Show.” But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet, a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the “Tonight Show,” I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Yours,

Conan

I was already Team Conan, and after reading this I’m even more so. I respect his passion for what he does and his commitment to preserving and honoring a network television institution. I’m concerned that Conan’s position with The Tonight Show is near over, as Leno is obviously the network’s priority. I hope Conan and his staff land somewhere where their talent, dedication and innate desire to make people laugh will be appreciated and celebrated…and that of course, maybe someone will finally hire Conan a decent hairstylist.

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Update on NBC late-night debacle: Leno is back to 11:35 PM

NBC announced that indeed they are canceling The Jay Leno Show during the 10 PM hour, and pushing him back to 11:35 PM–his original slot when he hosted The Tonight Show. If Conan stays, then Jay’s show will be a half-hour and if Conan walks, then it appears as though Leno will once again host The Tonight Show. The whole thing is just so ridiculous. Lots of money spent and lost and NBC ends up looking even more incompetent. Hey, here’s an idea for a new competition reality show: Please Run Our Network, and Not Further Into Ratings Oblivion, Thank You Very Much!

Anyway, as of now, there is no official word on what will happen with Conan…there is talk that he’s considering heading over to Fox. NBC has made their choice on who is the priority, I think that assuming all the money/details shake out that Conan would be crazy not to go to Fox, or wherever else he might be considering.

And so we wait for the drama to continue…and then, of course, in a couple of years there will be ANOTHER made-for-TV movie about the late night wars.

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So, NBC…now what?

Between last night and this morning I’ve been absorbed in all that is this NBC/Jay Leno/Conan/affiliates debacle…just to recap: a couple of years ago NBC announced that they were going to eventually make Conan O’Brien the new host of The Tonight Show and in response to that, they decided instead of losing Jay Leno to a competitor, they were going to give him a show too. The powers that be at the Peacock network decided it would save them some money to get rid of all their 10 PM weeknight programming and have Jay’s show during that time-slot. They would keep him and his viewers, while getting everyone used to Conan as the new face of The Tonight Show and simultaneously attract younger viewers. Everybody wins, right?

Wrong.

During the last few months since the transition officially took place, local NBC affiliates have seen dramatic drops in viewership (according to the LA Times, as much as 30% in some markets), due to Leno’s low ratings, and they have been freaking out, understandably.

NBC knows that’s serious, or they are using it as an excuse to undo their damage, and so now the back-peddling begins…according to various reports, one of the options NBC is considering is to give Leno back his 11:35 PM slot, as The Jay Leno Show and Conan, if he chooses to stay with the network, will be at 12:05 AM with The Tonight Show, and then Jimmy Fallon at 1:05 AM. It’s anyone’s guess what the heck will happen. We should know shortly as the Television Critics Tour in LA begins next week and there is an NBC affiliates board meeting later this month.

I personally thought this was a reckless and ridiculous move to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, risks are good, but focus groups/trial periods are better. I ask, how much research/thought was put into this? From fans, to the creative community that produces the programming, to affiliates, everyone was affected by this, and the only ones that seemed to have gained were Leno and O’Brien with lucrative contracts. It appears to me that NBC was so wrapped up in saving their talent that they didn’t think about the long-run or the impact of changing the broadcast landscape with replacing the coveted 10 PM time-slot with the same show (didn’t anyone learn from ABC’s mistake with multiple night airings of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) and with a personality that was already kind of being phased out to begin with, with the network initiating the passing of the torch.

How ever it shakes out, NBC has some rebuilding to do, not only their image/PR (as they look like they don’t know what the heck they are doing), but also somewhat of their programming brand. It’s been a few months now, and many viewers have moved on to other networks/shows to satisfy their 10 PM primetime cravings. Based on reports, NBC’s window to re-organize their schedule is by the conclusion of their 2010 Winter Olympics coverage—February 28—which doesn’t give them a whole lot of time to produce anything new. If they want more bang for the buck, they should attempt to make a programming splash; simply returning with episodes of old shows that never aired might make some fans happy, but doesn’t really make up for their poor decision making in the first place.

I’ll keep tabs on this story and return with updates as they come in…

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…Pop Culture Bites…Pop Culture Bites…Pop Culture Bites…

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  • NBC recently announced their new “artist in residence” program, and appointed rocker Jon Bon Jovi as the first artist. What does that mean? Who the heck knows…but it’s only a matter of time before he shows up on 30 Rock…a little thing called “synergy”. — The NY Observer
  • Speaking of 30 Rock, it was finally announced that Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will co-host the next Oscar telecast, airing in March.  Okay, good, I’m glad that’s been settled, now we can move on to other earth-shattering stuff. —  Variety
  • Remember how distraught I was that NBC canceled Southland? Well, TNT was obviously upset too, because they picked up the show.  THANK YOU, TNT! — Entertainment Weekly
  • Kirstie Alley, how do you do it? How do you continue to get TV shows made about you? Scripted, reality, skinny, not skinny, blonde, brunette, it doesn’t matter. You are an enigma. — Radar Online
  • Here’s a little dose of awesome:  Comedy Central has given The Onion the go-ahead to work on a pilot for a scripted series inspired by The Onion’s online sports network. —  Entertainment Weekly

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The best thing to happen to NBC since 30 Rock…

…and no, it’s definitely not Jay Leno’s nightly 10 PM show…but since you brought it up, IMHO I think handing over the coveted primetime hour to an annoying and no longer relevant comedian is ridiculous and could possibly turn out to be one of the most disastrous decisions NBC has ever made. There are networks that take creative risks (FX, AMC) and then networks that just take desperate measures (remember when ABC ran Who Wants to Be a Millionaire almost every night of the week?)–Jay Leno every night @ 10 PM is a desperate measure. And guess what–Leno’s ratings aren’t great and now NBC is kind of panicking.

community-review

All that aside, let’s get to a good decision NBC’s programming kids made for this fall that has turned out to be a bright spot on Thursday night’s line up: Community. In case you aren’t already a fan, it stars Joel McHale (of the E! channel’s The Soup, as well as this summer’s film, The Informant! with Matt Damon) as arrogant and former lawyer, Jeff Winger and Chevy Chase as a socially awkward businessman, Pierce Hawthorne, both who have enrolled at a community college. Jeff creates a fake Spanish class study group to get to know his attractive  fellow classmate, Britta (Gillian Jacobs). Unfortunately for Jeff, word gets around about the said study group, resulting in a few more extra members than he had hoped for—other classmates, who really want/need tutoring/or just want to be social—and voila, we have a show. I think Community is NBC’s second best comedy, behind 30 Rock, and the two of them blocked together on Thursday nights should help the Peacock Network’s numbers.

The cast is great, the writing is fun, slap-stick, witty (and often not very PC), and thoughtful at times, but never forgets that it’s a sitcom (formulaic/predictable). There are a couple of familiar faces–Allison Brie (Trudy from MadMen) as the high-strung Annie; John Oliver (from The Daily Show) as a professor and former client of Jeff’s; and Ken Jeong (appeared in Knocked Up, The Pineapple Express, The Office, Entourage) as Senor Chang, their erratic and intense Spanish professor.

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I’m just thrilled that the very talented and smug Ryan Seacrest look-alike Joel McHale is branching out from being host of a clip-show to leading man on a network comedy.  It would seem that Mr. McHale may be the latest Talk Soup/The Soup success story since Hal Sparks, who went on to star in Showtime’s award-winning series, Queer as Folk and before him, Greg Kinnear, who has appeared in numerous films and was nominated for an Oscar for As Good As It Gets.

Below is a clip of the show, enjoy!

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