LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - NBC’s decision to keep Jay Leno at the network by giving him a weeknight 10 p.m. talk show generated some scathing commentary from some of Hollywood’s top TV producers on Tuesday.
“I’m wondering if NBC is publicly transforming itself into AM radio,” said James Duff, creator/executive producer of TNT’s “The Closer.” “I thought they were in a coma, so it’s a good sign ... They’re actively participating in their own demise.”
Duff was among the participants at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s “Hitmakers” luncheon panel at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
It took place hours after the fourth-ranked network confirmed that Leno would move into primetime next summer after he hands over the reins of “The Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien. It means that NBC will end up programing only 17 hours a weekinstead of 22, a move that will save it money but reduce its demand for scripted programing.
“As entertaining as Jay is, I think it’s too bad that NBC is making choices primarily from a financial consideration vs. putting on the best possible work,” said panel moderator Peter Tolan, co-creator/executive producer of FX’s “Rescue Me.”
He and Chuck Lorre, co-creator/executive producer of CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” asked, “Is NBC considered the Big Four anymore?”
Al Jean, the executive producer of Fox’s “The Simpsons,” joked that NBC could further enhance its standing by bringing back late talk-show maven Johnny Carson and giving him the 9 p.m. hour.
Jenji Kohan, creator/executive producer of Showtime’s “Weeds,” also joked that the network should bring back the Barbara Mandrell-led variety specials of the early 1980s. NBC last month tried reviving the format with host Rosie O’Donnell to less than stellar results.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the creators of new dramas will be even more inclined to take their shows to cable, said Duff.
“There is an appetite for good, quality dramas,” he said. “The more that the broadcast networks transform themselves into reality and talk shows, the more that dramas will go to cable and be done properly — the way they can’t on broadcast anymore.”