Will Jay Leno’s new show be successful?

I admit it. I’m more of a Conan fan. I just relate more to his wacky, unconventional sense of humor. Whether he is addressing the audience as “his babies” in his opening monologue or spontaneously deconstructing a joke and letting us “inside the process,” the guy just flat out cracks me up.

And, as we have known for the past five years, next week he inherits the keys to the late night kingdom, replacing Mr. Chin himself.

No one feels bad for Jay Leno. Next fall he inherits his own show, and right now I’m wondering if this new show will be a colossal mistake for NBC.

Leno will host a new variety-talk show airing five days a week, slotted in the last hour of prime time. Just writing that sentence makes me confused.

For one thing there is the variety aspect of the WEEK-LONG show (sorry, still can’t get over the fact that it will be on every … single … day). Contemporary US variety shows just haven’t worked. They get panned by critics, and more importantly no one watches them. Remember ABC‘s The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour? Of course you don’t.

To be fair, this isn’t Donny & Marie we are talking here. Leno states he’ll be keeping his traditional monologue motif and offering up some of the same ol’ comedy bits he used while on The Tonight Show. But every night do viewers really want to watch a Tonight Show-esqe comedy program shortly before, um, The Tonight Show?

Larry’s blog post from several months back – NBC has become the “House of Bad Ideas” – also points out that viewers tend to change the channel on talk shows after the first half hour, which won’t make local affiliates happy when they don’t have a strong lead-in to their nightly newscasts. Speaking of local affiliates, NBC has already received complaints from affiliate station owners.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the new show will result in sizable ratings for the fourth-ranked broadcast network, which is experiencing its lowest ratings ever. But here’s the thing: If Leno’s show fails to deliver the ratings that local affiliates demand, the network will be scrambling to find a replacement for a show that is airing five days a week.

Seems to me the Peacock is putting all its eggs in the wrong basket.

Adam Anderson

Adam Anderson is the managing editor of Bizmology. He has worked at Hoover's in several editor roles writing about various industries since 2004. He has his BS in media studies from the University of Texas. Follow Adam on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Ryan Duncan says:

    Jay seems to be more comfortable behind a desk and that’s not where a Variety Show host belongs. It also seems like, not necessarily a step down, but somewhat down-ish. To be fair, I’d have the same trepidations if I ever heard the Smothers Brothers were going to host a late night talk show. The two formats are only close enough to prove that they’re not the same thing at all. Only time or Twitter will tell.

  2. GMH1013 says:

    After May 29th 09 I will never watch the tonight show again.
    Being an older baby boomer I dont find Conan funny at all and everybody
    I know my age cant stand him either.
    I never was much of a Letterman guy because I didn’t think he was that funny either but can relate to him 100 times better than conan.
    I will shift to CBS late night if at all….till Leno comes back.

  3. There seems to be this huge generation gap between those who like Conan and those who don’t. Being 30 I’m on Team Conan. His antics during the writers strike made for some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen on TV…ever. Meanwhile, my parent’s were probably staring at the TV thinking, “what is that guy in the beard doing exactly?”

  4. I never could really get into Jay… not my style, I guess. I used to really like Letterman when he was on the middle of the night but as soon as he moved to CBS and to an earlier slot, it was over for me. I think Conan, though he’s different, has that same wackiness Letterman had in the old days. Even though I like Conan, the big thing all this points out is that there may never be another Johnny Carson who has wide, multigenerational appeal. Thoughts?

  5. Rejected Subterfuge says:

    So Adam, if NBC gave you a timeslot on… say a Saturday night, which Bizmology editor would you choose as your sidekick? Your bandleader?

    Just think, then you could spend your Saturday with that person every week instead of with your family, friends and loved ones.

  6. Sassy Sally says:

    Oh! please say Stuart Hampton. I bet he has a whole Collin Ferguson thing one.

    Or whatever that guy who was Mimi’s boss on Drew Carey is – I forget his name, but he has a late show.

  7. Adam Anderson says:

    “Even though I like Conan, the big thing all this points out is that there may never be another Johnny Carson who has wide, multigenerational appeal. Thoughts?” – good point, Jenni. Agreed.

  8. I think Jay will go well in the new show. I especially enjoyed watching him rescue a delapidated Dusenburg one evening which was nothing like the late show. Conan and Letterman? Conan doesn’t interest me at all and neither does Letterman. Leno has personality and character, and his jokes are hilarious.

  9. Sorry guys. I am a bit younger then most of the leno fans But I gotta agree with them. Conan Obrien, Host of the tonight show? nope, Not me… Not this little boy. I have never thought conan was funny. I would much more like seeing Jay leno. and when Jay’s new show comes out, I WILL be watching. But when the new tonight show starts…I’ll be watching DVD’s. or playing my Playstation, Wi and Xbox. I’m just not into cheesie stuff. and that’s all Conan is, cheese! he can’t be funny without dissing some social group, hating on certain politicians and dissing religious groups. Hey if I want that I’ll go listen to talk radio. No Conan IS funny on occation, it’s just too rare for me to camp out and wait. I’ll be watching Jay at 10

  10. Watcher says:

    There are a number of ways to parse the situation. Only the numbers will really tell us the answer, eventually.

    It seems likely that a major proportion of Conan’s current audience will follow him back to 11:35. That’s easy. But how much of the Carson/Leno audience — irrespective of age — will want to stay up for Conan, keeping in mind that they’ll be able to “continue” with Jay ninety minutes earlier.

    A real risk for NBC is that the cash cow of the 11pm news may be damaged for affiliates. That scenario assumes that Jay’s fans watch at 10, then instead of watching the news as a lead in to Jay’s old show (now Conan’s show), simply turn off the TV at 11 or so, not being particularly entranced by Conan’s comedy style.

    Net result — Conan keeps most of his audience. Jay keeps most of his audience. The 11pm news loses big.

    My gut feeling is that neither Conan nor Jay will pick up much of the other’s audiences.

    Nor do I accept the premise that 10pm is a graveyard for Jay. In fact, he might very well pick up significant new share from folks who can’t stay up late and are tired of slash and burn dramas before bedtime. Comparing Jay’s show with variety shows of years past seems an inappropriate analysis.

    In any case, like I said, the numbers will tell. Right now, I’m betting on Jay coming out on top.

    Watcher
    Burbank, California

  11. NBC is nothing without leno period!! big mistake for them to not give leno a raise and keep his tonight show, i hope he leaves nbc for ABC to slap nba in the face…

  12. Justin Joseph says:

    Well i personally can not wait for his new show, because i think Conan o’brien is funny but i had his show,i haven’t watched the tonight show since he took over.Tried to twice but it was horrible.
    Jay leno is funny,his writers are good,and i think he bring alot of fans like myself to get in the bed and hour earlier now.

  13. Well his first show was really really bad. I cannot see watching him 5 days a week. It suck

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