Jay Leno lands the cover of TIME magazine this week proclaiming him the future of television. The fact is, they might be right.
If The Jay Leno Show succeeds — where succeeding means not getting more viewers than the competition but simply increasing NBC’s profit margin — it suggests a TV future in which ambitious dramas become the stuff of boutique cable, while the broadcasters become a megaphone for live events and cheap nonfiction. “If the Leno Show works,” says former NBC president Fred Silverman, “it will be the most significant thing to happen in broadcast television in the last decade.”
Zucker says he believes there’s still a role for big TV networks. “We know that the pipes still work,” he says. “When we put on the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the Nightly News, the Today show, American Idol, millions of viewers come.” I point out that none of his examples are comedies or dramas. “That’s a fair point,” he says. “Broadcast TV is definitely moving toward live, nonscripted events.” If the Leno model is broadcast’s future, it will mean less room for ambitious shows on the scale of Heroes and Lost. Says Rick Ludwin, NBC’s executive vice president in charge of prime time and late night: “We’re not the National Endowment for the Arts. This is a business.”
However you feel about Jay Leno and his radical network experiment, the article did give us a sneak peek at Jay’s new elaborate, casino style set.