Stephen King: When I heard about Leno's new show, my heart sank

by Paul William Tenny

stephen-king.jpgIt's a wonderfully dreary day bouncing back and forth between rain and sleet, so what better time than now to collectively amuse ourselves at the expense of Jay Leno? I mean he of all people should understand this, the man has made one hell of a living off of making fun of other people, right?

Personally I can't wait until he returns to The Tonight Show and it continues to flail, and NBC realizes that they should have gotten rid of Leno and brought in the cavalry to help Conan instead of breaching his contract and kicking him out.

But that'll have to wait until after the winter Olympics are over, you know, the one that reportedly will cause NBC to incur about $200 million in debt. Because what NBC really needs to do right now is not make money.

For now we'll have to subsist on celebrity pontification, like this article by Stephen King where he rejoices in Leno's failure and then explains why:

That doesn't change the fact that when I read NBC was giving Leno five hours of prime time a week, my heart sank. My first reaction was, I thought reality TV was the worst -- now this.

Leno is a nice guy, but his prime-time showcase was flavorless pabulum consisting of Vegas-style stand-up (jokes about politics rather than sex, as a rule, but told in the same tired ''Take my wife, please'' fashion), skits, stupid human tricks (my favorite was the phys-ed teacher who lifted weights while standing on an exercise ball), and celebs who were on board to sell their latest projects. In short, there was nothing there to disturb the human brain in the slightest.


My delight at the Leno Show's failure sprang from a bone-deep conviction that it would not fail, that it would in fact turn into a ratings monster and spawn what network TV does best: imitations. And, nice man though he is, you could add together the entertainment value of every single episode of Mr. Leno's prime-time venture and it would still come up short next to a single episode of The Good Wife.

I actually disagree with King's parting note, that NBC will fill the five hours now occupied by reruns with reality programming. NBC's execs are dumb, but not that dumb. We'll almost certainly see one, maybe two new reality shows, but NBC has enough brain cells left to know that short of finding the next American Idol -- which is steadily losing viewers as the novelty wears off (again) -- their path to the top will be paved in scripted dramas and comedies that have more viewers than they do awards.

in Television


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