Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jay Leno: Series-low ratings against a rerun

Remember NBC's "52-week strategy" with "The Jay Leno Show," where the program would likely be hammered in the ratings by new dramas on CBS and ABC but would show strength against reruns? As last night's "Leno" guest, Dr. Phil McGraw, might say, "How's that workin' for ya'?"

Not so well, apparently -- the good doctor couldn't help Jay beat a rerun of "CSI: Miami." In fact, Leno could only dredge up a series-low 4.62 million viewers.

Advertising Age's Simon Dumenco takes a page from Jay's former time slot rival in presenting "Top 10 Lessons to Learn from NBC's Failing Leno Strategy." "NBC executives, in marketing Leno's move to prime time, tried to position him as a beloved broadcast institution -- like they were bestowing a comedic gift on America -- as a cover for their entirely cynical cost-cutting," writes Dumenco. "In reality, though, it was clear all along that late-night Leno functioned as a sort of utility: an easy, default pre-bedtime diversion literally not ready for prime time, even after 17 years. NBC used to offer substantive entrees at 10 ('ER,' 'Law & Order'), and figured that viewers could be forced to switch to comfort food. But Leno at 11:35 wasn't ever really even meatloaf; he was more like that stale bag of Funyuns in the back of the cupboard you were willing to settle for because mindless late-night snacking is ... mindless."


  1. Robin said...

    She makes some very interesting comments about the lack of women writers on Tonight, The Late Show, Late Night, and how male writers might be concerned about watching what they say in front of a female writer. Of course, the only reliably funny (and smart) shows on at late night (The Daily Show, Colbert) DO have female writers... and they say things that the other shows would never say.

  2. Talk Show News said...

    Looks like Robin's comment is referring to this post.

  3. Robin said...

    Oops! That should be posted to the article "David Letterman: A female writer speaks out about "hostile work environment". Sorry!

  4. Mr. Tell-It-Like-It-Is said...

    "that stale bag of Funyuns in the back of the cupboard you were willing to settle for"

    Exactly. Jay Leno became the "King" of "late night" not because his Tonight Show was ever *good*; he acquired that title by *default*, because Dave Letterman was offering a mediocre product and willfully refused to improve it. (In fact Dave did things that seemed deliberately designed to drive viewers away, such as: "Will It Float"; his 10-15 minute commercial break 40 minutes into his program; and his pioneering use of the humorless monologue.)

    After 17 years, Jay became more at ease during the interview segments of his show, but he was still never good at that either. I remember a particular night two years ago when he was discussing, with some guest, that Supreme Court decision that found that local governments could use eminent domain to confiscate your home even to replace it with a mall or a condo unit (or just about anything), as long as the replacement held promise of producing greater tax revenue for the municipality. Jay summed up the discussion on the decision by saying, nonchalantly, "Oh well, I'm sure it will be overturned." No one interrupted to say, "Excuse me, Jay, but what court is it, exactly, that can overturn a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court?" Which goes to show the basic problem: he was never smart enough to put on a good show.

    Originally, Jay had the talent of selling a joke. But in his last few years on Tonight his ratings lead was so huge that his audience must have thought him a genius. The in-house audience would laugh uproariously at any given joke, no matter how lame. The result: Jay began to think all his monologue jokes were funny and developed a tin-ear for lame jokes; in the end, because of that, lame jokes began filling up his monologues, leaving no room left for humorous jokes. Nonetheless, because he tells so many jokes, one or two funny ones accidentally fall in from time to time.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Ouch, "stale bag of Funyuns" huh? hahaha, I can see my disdain for Jay is not as big as I thought when I read things like those.

    I agree that Jay's audience has to be pretty mindless in order to like him and his show. He is not as great as his fans and mostly NBC makes him out to be. Not by a long shot.