This is odd, fascinating news. NBC will be keeping Jay Leno next year after all, even though Conan O'Brien will still be taking over the 11:35 p.m. "Tonight Show" slot at the end of May. The network is giving Leno a nightly, prime-time perch at 10 p.m., where he will preside over a talker much like "The Tonight Show."
The deal will save NBC from losing Leno, the late-night ratings king, to a competitor. Leno had said he was done with NBC, and ABC and Fox were widely rumored to be courting him. The deal, led by NBC-Universal chief Jeff Zucker, also may help the network get back some of its mojo. Will Leno's viewers, an average of 4.8 million, follow him into prime time? And will he then be able to build on that number?
This is the kind of bold, experimental move that network TV needs right now. Is there a rule somewhere that says a nightly talk show won't work at 10 p.m.? There haven't been many new hit dramas at 10 p.m. lately, since the advent of the "CSI" spinoffs. Rather than running through the same failing programming patterns that were established decades ago, before cable TV and On Demand and DVRs, NBC deserves some credit for taking a risk. The network also deserves credit for creating something other than a reality show.
That said... Leno. I'm not a big fan. I wish NBC were setting up a new era of Conan with someone a little more... real? Will you watch Leno at 10 p.m.?