Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jay Leno: Fired? NBC says no

On Sunday morning, the Television Critics Association winter press tour will feature an "executive session" with NBC honchos Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad. I'm guessing that there will be a lot of questions about the future of one Mr. Jay Leno.

Speculation has reached a fever pitch about the future of the troubled "Jay Leno Show," which has endured crummy ratings and a critical drubbing. TV "insider website" is currently trumpeting the headline, "NBC to Pull the Plug on Leno!"

In an interview on L.A. radio station KNX, FTV editor Scott Jones says the info is coming from "sources" at the Peacock Network. "The bean counters were told to crunch the numbers to see if Jay Leno was making money or not making money," said Jones. "The bean counters told the suits that the [network owned and operated stations] were getting killed in their numbers, in their late news numbers... The bean counters said, 'You know what? Jay Leno isn't making money for us.'

"There are two camps now at the highest level. One camp wants to pull Leno after the Olympics [when his show will be preempted] so he can go away quietly. Another camp, NBC has commissioned 19 pilot episodes... that other camp wants to wait and see what pilots come into the pipeline and see what they can replace Leno with."

What will happen with Conan O'Brien? "Right now, NBC is so fixed on the 10 PM number, I don't know how much conversation they're having about what happens at 11:30," said Jones. "Leno wants to go back to 11:30, from what my NBC sources say. He never wanted to leave there in the first place. Leno may not be out of NBC, but he's definitely going to be out of 10 PM, no question."

NBC took the unusual step of issuing two statements in response to Jones' story. The first: “Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today. As we have said all along, Jay’s show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance.”

Since that sounded a bit wishy-washy, NBC came back with a more definitive statement saying that the Leno show had not been canceled.