Thursday, 14 January 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #431: What NBC Has Taught Us

Welcome to the show folks...

Recently David Letterman was reported calling the management of NBC "pinheads." Personally, I think Mr. Letterman should apologize to pinheads... oops, my bad, the "Pinhead-American" community.

I use such strong phrasing because just when you think Jeff Zucker and the brain trust that is currently running NBC into oblivion have hit bottom, they break out the chisels and start hacking at the bedrock. First comes word that Jeff Zucker decided to further "Zuckerfy" the negotiations by threatening to put Conan O'Brien "on ice." That means that if they have to pay O'Brien his going away money, they are going to enforce a rarely enacted clause preventing him from doing anything in front of the camera for the 3 1/2 years remaining on his
Tonight Show contract.

Then came word NBC-Universal has sent Universal Pictures Prez/COO Ron Meyer to smooth the feathers ruffled by Zucker's threats, because it meant starting a war with Conan's agents (William Morris Endeavor) and their sizable legal team.

Now reports are saying that Jay Leno will return to the
Tonight Show, and that, barring any further Zukerfying of the negotiations, Conan will be a free agent with a big fat payoff.

Now let's see what we have learned from this whole fiasco.

1. Comcast paid way too much for NBC. Really, how can they justify the price they paid when they inherit crap like this.

2. NBC management has no idea how to manage. This whole fiasco was caused by the simple fact that it's CEO Jeff Zucker felt that he kept having to foist his brain farts onto the network, with little or no thought on how they're going to do it without turning everything into a money losing disaster. They could have done this right, given Jay Leno a way to leave with dignity on his 20th anniversary, a smooth segue to Conan's tenure, and both would have had a couple of years to prepare for the change. Leno could have tried a weekly show, or maybe quarterly specials, and everyone would have been happier. But no, instead they decided to just jerk everyone around, toss them against the wall, and instead of giving anything a chance to stick, tossed them all out the window.

3. Jay Leno's insecurity has eternally tainted his "brand." Jay Leno makes all his decisions based on the belief that he could end up starving in an alleyway at any second. He blindly does what NBC tells him to do, and while that may look great in the eyes of NBC's management, it makes Jay look like a treacherous back-stabber to just about anyone else paying the remotest amount of attention. Jay's not acting out of malice, he's actually acting out of fear. Why do you think he never let anyone guest host, or had as many comedians on the show as Johnny Carson? Because he was
terrified that NBC would replace him, and he'd no longer be able to piss away millions on steam powered cars. His insecurity made him take the deal for the Jay Leno show, and now it's made him into Jeff Zucker's toady.

4. NBC has managed to do the impossible, and make itself seem an even worse company to work for than it did before.

5. Jeff Zucker must possess incriminating evidence on a lot of major players. Because he must have the power to get CEOs indicted by the Feds to explain his near miraculous ability to avoid getting the pink slip he so rightly deserves. There is now way someone as incompetent as him could destroy a business as completely as he's done, and not be tossed on the street.

I don't see the venerable
Tonight Show recovering quickly or at all from this disaster. If Letterman plays his cards right and suppresses his innate arrogance, and avoid further scandal, he could keep the dominant position in late night. Because while he may be smug, and a lecher, he didn't become Jeff Zucker's bitch and put the blade to a fellow comedian.

Well, here's my artistic rendering of Conan's exit from NBC....

Let's hope he doesn't end on ice, and really puts the screws to NBC. Someone has to, it's the only way they'll learn.

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