Raise your hand if you’re surprised by what you’re about to read. NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin kicked off his network’s portion of the TCA press tour by confirming the worst kept secret in the TV biz: “I can confirm, starting Feb. 12, The Jay Leno Show will no longer air at 10 p.m.”
Gaspin said that, “While [Leno] was performing at acceptable levels for the network, it did not meet our affiliates’ needs, and we realized we had to make a change. My goal right now is to keep Jay, Conan [O’Brien], and Jimmy [Fallon] as part of our late-night lineup. I have spoken to all of them and proposed that The Jay Leno Show move to 11:35, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien to 12:05, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon would then start at 1:05.
“As much as I’d like to tell you we have a done deal, that’s not true,” he added. “The talks are ongoing. [But] I hope and expect, before the Olympics begin, we will have everything set. I can’t imagine we won’t.”
Though there’s been no official word yet from Jay, Conan, or Jimmy, Gaspin called the trio “gracious,” adding that they “understood the difficult position” NBC is in. And Carson Daly? Gaspin insists he’ll “remain a part of NBC.” Last Call, however, sounds like it’s dead.
So what goes on at 10 now? NBC prez Angela Bromstad said, “We have absolutely dedicated our resources to fortifying and building up our development slate.” In the meantime, Leno’s very temporary weeknight home will soon be filled by two more hours of scripted content (Friday Night Lights and Law & Order: Criminal Intent are in the mix), an hour of reality, an expanded Dateline, and some repeats. “We’re not going to do five new dramas at 10 p.m.,” Gaspin promised.
In spite of hindsight being 20/20, Gaspin still sees the Leno debacle as a calculated risk and the kind of gamble that he might take again. “I don’t think it’s wrong to take chances,” he said. “Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Maybe we were a little too early on [in reinventing the 10 p.m. hour]. I still think you have to play with your schedule a little bit differently…
“By the fall,” he added, “you may see us do some interesting stuff with the schedule.”