At a lively — well, occasionally explosive — panel of TV producers working on FX cable shows today, NBC came under fierce, funny, profane attack.
Said Peter Tolan (Rescue Me): “NBC should take down the American flag in front of [their] building and put up a white one, because they’ve given up.”
Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) said, “NBC, they’re sort of the bastards to hate right now.”
Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Fox’s Lie to Me) said, “That network used to stand for something better…that feels offensive to me.”
What were they all talking about? NBC’s scheduling Jay Leno’s 10 p.m. show five nights a week, and thus depriving the public of five hours of scripted dramas. “Five nights a week [of Leno] is craven,” said Tolan.
Ryan chided the assembled Television Critics Association in Los Angeles this morning, saying he wished us critics “would hold NBC’s feet to the fire” and not buy into NBC’s argument that the Leno show is a wise business idea. “They talk about how Leno’s show’s going to be cheaper to make. But what’s the value of a show after it’s aired? They can’t sell it on DVD. No one’s interested in watching an episode of it three weeks later because all the topical humor is no longer topical.”
These producers looked back with misty eyes to the glory years of NBC drama, from Hill Street Blues up through ER.
Well, this was fun stuff. It’s always nice to hear TV professionals actually say what they think and not just profess to love everyone they work with. (It should be added that the two other producers on the panel, Damages‘ Todd A. Kessler and Lawman‘s Graham Yost, were more diplomatic and measured in their responses.) But there was also a whiff of embattledness to some of the gibes. Tolan said, “The business is cyclical, and…we’re all sort of waiting for reality [TV] to die down, in terms of reality TV being crap, which 90% of it is.”
I don’t think reality TV is going to die down any time soon; it’s pretty much here to stay, don’t you think? And some on the panel even acknowledged that the five hours that drama loses with Jay is more than made up for by the hours and hours of drama you can now watch on basic cable, on USA and AMC and TNT and…of course, FX. And I really don’t think that if NBC gets a good drama project, they’re not going to schedule it, at 8 or 9 p.m.
That said, what do you think of the producers’ argument: that five nights of Jay Leno is robbing you of fortifying drama, and tarnishes NBC’s history in this area. Yes? No?