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NBC Putting Leno in Prime Time

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  December 9, 2008 06:03 AM

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This is odd, fascinating news. NBC will be keeping Jay Leno next year after all, even though Conan O'Brien will still be taking over the 11:35 p.m. "Tonight Show" slot at the end of May. The network is giving Leno a nightly, prime-time perch at 10 p.m., where he will preside over a talker much like "The Tonight Show."

The deal will save NBC from losing Leno, the late-night ratings king, to a competitor. Leno had said he was done with NBC, and ABC and Fox were widely rumored to be courting him. The deal, led by NBC-Universal chief Jeff Zucker, also may help the network get back some of its mojo. Will Leno's viewers, an average of 4.8 million, follow him into prime time? And will he then be able to build on that number?

This is the kind of bold, experimental move that network TV needs right now. Is there a rule somewhere that says a nightly talk show won't work at 10 p.m.? There haven't been many new hit dramas at 10 p.m. lately, since the advent of the "CSI" spinoffs. Rather than running through the same failing programming patterns that were established decades ago, before cable TV and On Demand and DVRs, NBC deserves some credit for taking a risk. The network also deserves credit for creating something other than a reality show.

That said... Leno. I'm not a big fan. I wish NBC were setting up a new era of Conan with someone a little more... real? Will you watch Leno at 10 p.m.?

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79 comments so far...
  1. Irrelevant. All this does is move the infomercial ("See my movie!!", "Buy my cd!!") hosted by laughtrack Leno up 90 minutes and cut the legs out from under Conan before he even has the job one day.

    Posted by Hoss December 9, 08 07:20 AM
  1. i hope he has donna pescow as a guest!!!!

    Posted by kbonzy December 9, 08 07:23 AM
  1. Now he can suck in prime time.

    Posted by Kevin December 9, 08 07:33 AM
  1. Yes, it will cut down on my sleeping pill habit!

    Posted by Jerry Springer December 9, 08 07:36 AM
  1. No I will not. Leno is not funny, Conan on the other hand is the man.

    Posted by P-Ricky December 9, 08 07:38 AM
  1. Hmm, this sucks! I like Leno but I guess this means "Law & Order" is toast :(

    Posted by Marishka Hargiday December 9, 08 07:44 AM
  1. I love Leno....there is no way that I would have been staying up with Conan....he's not the least bit entertaining and I would have switched to Letterman for sure. I have no idea why NBC would switch one of it's only ratings leaders for someone who does the same thing night after night and worse yet, he isn't at all funny. Conan O'Brien must appeal to morons that's all that I can figure.

    Posted by Dan December 9, 08 07:45 AM
  1. We will probably Tivo the new show to watch later . We really enjoy watching Leno expecially the monologue.

    Posted by Jackie December 9, 08 07:47 AM
  1. I am glad that NBC created this opportunity for us viewers that watch Jay Leno every Night. I hope this timeslot works out.

    Posted by Joseph Savoia December 9, 08 07:48 AM
  1. Great. I will watch him and get some more sleep in the process

    Posted by WI Mcdunna December 9, 08 07:53 AM
  1. Nothing I would least like to watch more at 10pm is a Tonite show type program. Rather watch the news or some show that's worth watching. Another experiment doomed to fail...

    Posted by Mike B December 9, 08 07:53 AM
  1. This is the kiss of death for the 10 - 11:30 time slot. Advertisers will not buy into an early late night. NBC's local news will take it on the chin!! This time slot works best with Drama / Action. If I were Conan i would be looking for another Job, his money will dry up in less than 6 months

    Posted by David of virginia December 9, 08 07:54 AM
  1. It was always doubtful to me whether Conana had the all around pizzazz to host The tonight show= he used to be funny but more and more= conan has become like the stereotypical rich college kid who is slumming in his frat house ..he is running out of gas on the young smartass appeal= now he just thinks he`s cool i am happy tht Leno will move to aprime time slot= ihe desreves it= and has the all around skills to host a show and keep it moving. funny and entertaining =without having to resort to kid stuff/pranks/ amd dumb characters.

    Posted by sherry salzman December 9, 08 07:54 AM
  1. With Regional Program, I can watch NBC Detroit in my Mountain Time, means that I watch Leno at 9:35 all the time. This is not going to be much of a difference.

    Posted by Jason December 9, 08 07:55 AM
  1. Definitely. I was so disappointed when I heard he was leaving and Conana, who is funny but nothing like Jay, was taking over. Conan hasn't even been a guest host has he??? Jay was a guest host many times for Johnny Carson and there was no problem handing over the reins.

    Posted by woeirj December 9, 08 08:04 AM
  1. Now maybe NBC can lose some of the watered down junk that now appears from 8-11 and maybe, just maybe, they can fill 2 hours with better stuff. But this move will absolutely torch the Tonight Show. Yes, he'll get his money and he still stinks, but I would still be ticked if I were Conan. He will be know in history as the new host that tanked the mighty Tonight Show. He most likely would have done it anyway, but now there is a 100% chance of it.

    Posted by RH December 9, 08 08:04 AM
  1. Sorry but 10 pm isn't Prime Time - unless you don't know how to raise children. But unfunny at whatever hour is still unfunny.

    Posted by CJ December 9, 08 08:10 AM
  1. Didn't watch him at 11:30; will certainly not watch him at 10.

    Posted by Seiji Ozawa December 9, 08 08:13 AM
  1. I don't watch Jay now, and I won't watch him at 10 pm. He has dumbed down the Tonight Show to an enormous degree that would make Johnny Carson turn over in his grave (if he hadn't been cremated, that is.) Letterman's show is so much smarter, there is no comparison. And Conan? He will be the demise of the Tonight Show. No warmth at all.

    Posted by Richard December 9, 08 08:13 AM
  1. The Tonight Show is just terrible. Jay's monologues are okay at times, but everything else is lazy and amateurish. His skits are either retreads of Johnny's old material or completely unfunny and an obvious struggle to fill the 5 minutes between commercial breaks. His interviews are safe, predictable snoozers. The addition of Stuttering John has made the show on par with your average cable access programming. The only reason he pulls in any ratings is that all of the competition at that time-slot is equally as bad. I don't think people will be tired or drunk enough yet to sit through Jay Leno at 10PM...

    Posted by Latenight King December 9, 08 08:13 AM
  1. Good idea, 11PM is too late for me as I have to get early.

    Posted by Oprah December 9, 08 08:17 AM
  1. conan o'brien absolutely sucks.....what is that bum still doing on television?

    Posted by Rojelio Moret December 9, 08 08:18 AM
  1. I don't know what comments #1-4 are talking about. I love Leno. I DVR him now and watch the next day, as 11:30 is a bit late for me. This new time is much better and means I'll have a better chance of catching the show live.

    Posted by Ken December 9, 08 08:19 AM
  1. I am only a year younger than Leno and he seems like my grandfather.
    What lousy support for Conan

    Posted by graciemom December 9, 08 08:23 AM
  1. Cool. Never able to see Leno at 11:30. Might actually be able to catch some now.

    Posted by B December 9, 08 08:25 AM
  1. yes i will watch jay leno at 10 pm . he is a funny and original comic . but push him into getting more interesting & contraversial guests . the same old , same old csi & the other dopey detective reruns we never watch . here is a chance to greatly increase tour viewers 'cause won't be on too late . BUT get more worldly guests . a fan in boston .

    Posted by stuart December 9, 08 08:26 AM
  1. I'll continue to watch Leno but will be changing stations so as to avoid that utter bore Conan O'Brien. How that jerk continues to survive is beyond me.

    Posted by Donald December 9, 08 08:30 AM
  1. Definitely! I don't have to wait until 11:30

    Posted by JD December 9, 08 08:34 AM
  1. Leno is just awful, always has been always will be. Real bad move for NBC.

    Posted by Bosemt December 9, 08 08:38 AM
  1. I love Jay. Hey he's a hometown boy done good! People seem to be really grumpy this morning in their responses. If William Shatner can get a talk show, why not the highest rated guy in primetime? Wishing him the best.

    Posted by A fan December 9, 08 08:42 AM
  1. I'll continue to watch Leno and will switch channels to avoid the ultimate bore,
    Conan O'Brien.

    Posted by Donald December 9, 08 08:44 AM
  1. what they should do, is have 5 nights 5 hosts at 10. Black guy, white guy, asian guy, spanish guy, other guy.

    Posted by kn4eva December 9, 08 08:47 AM
  1. Probably!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by BAJ December 9, 08 08:49 AM
  1. Couldn't stand him at 11:35; now I can ignore him at 10PM.

    Posted by Arthur Treacher December 9, 08 08:50 AM
  1. Arsenio Hall did big business in syndication in the 10pm timeslot across the country for a while in the 90's.

    Posted by BA33 December 9, 08 08:53 AM
  1. Not a big fan of Leno, but at leas it's not another damn reality show that there are way too much of now!

    Posted by Donna December 9, 08 08:55 AM
  1. Definitely. Rather than crappy old "new" episodes of South Park, Jay Leno will now be able to tide me over until Jon Stewart is on at 11pm.

    Posted by Jesse B December 9, 08 08:56 AM
  1. Love Leno and glad he is staying on NBC

    Posted by Jason December 9, 08 08:58 AM
  1. Rather than say something snarky, I will focus on the question asked. Will I watch Leno at 10 p.m.? Yes. Although I consider myself more of a Letterman guy, if Leno is on at 10 p.m. five nights a week, chances are I will choose him over whatever else is on two out of five nights. That may not be a lot, but it is more that I watch him now and more than I'll be watching of Conan, despite preferring Conan over both Letterman and Leno.

    Posted by Mr. Soul December 9, 08 08:58 AM
  1. Wish they would've put Conan on at 10pm instead. But, that being said, I'm happy NBC made this move. I watch Leno on Fridays, since I don't have to wake up early on Saturdays, and now I'll likely watch Leno on some weeknights too.

    Posted by Nathan December 9, 08 09:03 AM
  1. Business is business. Letterman is considered by most critics to be better than Leno, but Leno wins the ratings war every year. If NBC were to simply allow Leno to walk, and replace him with Conan, it would've been disastrous for them.

    Posted by John December 9, 08 09:03 AM
  1. I'm not looking forward to Conan coming on earlier. If he's bringing the same sophomoric humor that he and that loser SNL (which has been on for 10 years too long) are generally known for, then I hope Jay will steal his thunder. I'm sorry, but I haven't found a barfing frog or a lewd bear funny since leaving high school. I won't be giggling at the same stuff our 13 year-olds find hilarious. I hope most people who consider themselves adults will go for a more sophisticated humor, even if it's not from Jay. We have lots of good comedians from Boston... pick another one!

    Posted by Kyasi December 9, 08 09:04 AM
  1. this becomes a new home for Pharma & Jitterbug ads... average age of this show? 50?

    Posted by Miguel December 9, 08 09:18 AM
  1. I think it's great. I just wish they found someone funnier that Conan O'Brien to fill the Tonight spot. Ellen Degeneras would have been a great choice.

    Posted by D. Land December 9, 08 09:21 AM
  1. I love the idea. I think Leno is very entertaining, and unfortunately I often miss his show because of the time, Now that won't be a problem. :-)

    Posted by anita December 9, 08 09:26 AM
  1. Methinks the folks who love Leno also still tune in nightly to Wheel of Fortune and have their Folgers crystals while watching Matt Lauer tell them what happened in the world during the previous 24 hours...

    Posted by Bob Swagger December 9, 08 09:41 AM
  1. Awesome! I hardly ever can stay up past 10:30pm so now I'll be able to catch the beginning part of his show when he gives his wicked funny takes on the "Events of the Day" and when he does the "skit - with "friend or stranger". I think he ROCKS!!!!

    Posted by Sarcastic December 9, 08 09:50 AM
  1. For those who do not think Conan is funny, take another look at how quick his wit is and how good his comebacks. If you have ever had the pleasure of being present in the audience for a taping of his show, HE comes out to warm up the crowd and is one of the funniest people I have ever seen. Remember that he got attacked viciously when he first arrived on the scene. Many predicted that he would not last but he proved the critics wrong and now is considered one of the most talented at this format. I believe what many people do not like is that he tends to be less like Carson who tended to give the spotlight to the guest. This is a unique talent that we have not seen before or since Carson. Give Conan some room and you will come to love him.

    Posted by michael December 9, 08 09:57 AM
  1. I think this is a great move by NBC! I have always loved watching Leno and Conan... I think they are the best one-two punch of all the late night talk shows.

    I think it was very admirable for Jay to give up his post to Conan when he didnt have to at all. When Leno got his extension there was a little discontent from Conan. Conan has always wanted the 1130 spot but he didnt want to go to another network. After receiveing his exctension Leno said he would finish out his new contract and then give up his spot to Conan because he didnt want the same friction to occur between him and Conan, the way it did between [Leno] and Letterman. (Remember there was a dispute over who should have received the vacant 1130 NBC spot years ago after Jonny Carson stepped down.) Leno said his friendship with Letteman were frayed because of the incident and he didnt want the samething to occur between him and Conan.

    Conan will be great in the 1130 spot and I cant wait to see how his new show will turn out. I want to see if the Max Weinburg band comes back or who he will replace them with.

    But I am so happy that Leno will be back because I personally think he is a great host and a funny host. He also has the longest Monologe of any of the late night hosts. Even though some arent funny... some are and the ones that arent he makes people laugh at how bad they were anyway.

    Plus, more people will get to see the comedy of Leno and Conan because of the earlier time slots and that will draw a wider audience. Great move by NBC! I am relieved to here Leno will stay and I will be able to watch both of them more often because I am a working man and I need to get to bed ealier these days.

    Posted by this guy December 9, 08 10:08 AM
  1. I assure you that I will not "come to love" Conan. He sucked when he started and he sucks now, albeit a bit less amateurish. A bit.

    Letterman's the best of the genre. I've chuckled at a couple of Leno's bits but they are few and far between. So, no, I won't be watching at 10, either.

    Letterman has become a terrific interviewer, especially with politicians. You can tell when he doesn't think much of a guest, though. He should work on that.

    Posted by Bob December 9, 08 10:11 AM
  1. Fact: Jay Leno did not "give up his post to Conan".

    Opinion: Jay Leno is the most blatant cue card reading, "Applause" sign reliiant TV personna since the aging Bob Hope was wheeled out for his tv specials in the 80's. That along with Leno's pathetic attempts to be an everyman ("I know I have a garage with 32 cars in it and I'm worth $140 million, but all my living expenses have always been covered by my stand-up comedian gigs, just ask my ordinary looking wife..."), Leno is utterly vanilla. The formula "topical event occurs, let team of writers come up with safe, semi-funny quip for me to say, have bandleader chuckle too much, Leno smirks, rinse and repeat until it's time to use props/newspapers/man on the street canned skits to get laughs" will work at 10 PM the same way it works at 11:30 for the lemmings.

    Posted by Larry Bud December 9, 08 10:39 AM
  1. I don't know how people can like Conan or Letterman, to me they are not funny at all. I guess it's just people's tastes, but Jay Leno has the highest ratings, so I'm not the only person that loves him. Can't wait for his new show!

    Posted by Brandon December 9, 08 10:51 AM
  1. I won't watch. I never thought Leno was funny and I never watch him late night on the Tonight Show ,so I really don't want to see him in primetime. I always thought he was boring and lame; providing the same topical jokes without the sharp wit of a Letterman or wackiness of Conan O'Brien. The 10:00 time-slot may actually work for him. Many of us are starting to go to bed earlier, so I can definately see setting the sleep timer on the T.V. and being asleep in 10 minutes watching Leno.

    Posted by Michelle2112 December 9, 08 10:53 AM
  1. RIP NBC! It's too bad that a netowrk that once had the best programming on network tv is so close to imploding. At least they'll go quickly by putting Leno in primetime. I'll mourn you, when I'm not watching CBS that is...

    Posted by Tibbs December 9, 08 10:55 AM
  1. His chin is way too big!! I have a small chin and I prefer to watch people with normal to small chins. That being said, I will give it a shot, but at 10AM, most people will be confused over the difference in time, and get their sleep cycles fouled up!!

    Posted by larry burd December 9, 08 11:02 AM
  1. I love Jay and am happy he will be on earlier. I just don’t find Conan funny.
    I believe that Jay appeals to a different intellect and perhaps a more mature audience.

    Posted by Hyancinth December 9, 08 11:17 AM
  1. As far as cutting-edge American comedy goes on a national television scale, Leno, Dave, Colbert and SNL are it.

    Posted by Barn Rode December 9, 08 11:18 AM
  1. A few points - 1. People in this day and age Channel Surf. I watch all 3 depending who the guest is. Starting with Nightline, at the same time as Letterman, or Leno. During commercials I surf. The guests are the important factor!! Sometimes Letterman has a top guest, sometimes Jimmy Kimmel, sometimes Leno. I search for who the guests are. 2. They announced long ago that Conan was to be the successor, and committed to him. A BIG MISTAKE. He's somewhat childish, not that funny. They would have been smarter to wait until closer to the end of Leno's reign, and hire the most popular and qualified now. Perhaps an Ellen. For Conan to inherit Johnny Carson's, and Leno's legacy, without CURRENT ratings, was a mistake. Craig Ferguson is far wittier and heartfelt. During the 10pm slot they need more shows with a theme. Like West Wing, or Boston Legal, or Greys's. Ongoing plots, that make you think. Enough of the contest shows, races, bachelors etc. Overdone !!!. They should be airing some historical clips as a part of Jay's new show, rather than skits, to help educate the younger viewers. Web Movies are overated, so go back to when comedy was great. Lucy at the Candy Factory, the Vegamite skit, any Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett, Victor Borge, Smother's Brothers,Benny, Rickles. Better television. Add it to his new show and he would be great. But it still depends on the guests.

    Posted by jc6 December 9, 08 11:34 AM
  1. Put your TV out for the trash collector and give your library card a try.

    Posted by Ethel in Cambridge December 9, 08 11:42 AM
  1. conan is a moron. His stupid noises and little dances is not funny. He seems to be trying too hard. After all these years, you would think he would be more comfortable. I will gladly watch Jay Leno at 10:00.

    Posted by Rob December 9, 08 11:48 AM
  1. who is donna pescow?

    Posted by jflay December 9, 08 11:58 AM
  1. I am sorry but i dont think Letterman is funny at all... his jokes are not funny... his top ten segment is not funny... his band or that bald guy provide no humourous commentary and the bald guy just looks like an idiot... He's lettermans little puppet... At least Kevin Eubanks takes some shots at Leno. With Conan, even though Max Weinberg is practically a mute he is occasionally funny with his role, plus Conan interacts and does jokes and skits with the other band members. Conan style of comedy is sarcastic humor and some people just dont get it. Leno has the longest monologue out of any of the late night hosts, and during the writers strike Leno was the only host still doing his monologue which shows that he writes some of his own jokes... the rest of the late night hosts didnt have their writers so the couldnt do their monologue so they just bypassed it for something else that was stupid.

    I agree that maybe they should have Leno do only 4 nights a week and leave room for Law and Order or something along that line on Monday or Tuesday.

    ONCE AGAIN... Great move by NBC

    Posted by this guy December 9, 08 12:06 PM
  1. no

    Posted by mynamsbrandon December 9, 08 12:17 PM
  1. Will watch occasionally at 10. Cannot stay up until 11:30 on a work night. These talk shows are no more than a way for stars to plug their new movies or books or concerts or etc, etc. They would not even consider appearing on these shows if they did not have something to hawk. The good part is a network is putting a non-reality show on the air. I can't speak for the rest of you but I am reality showed to death. Hopefully this is the end of the reality show era. I just hope other networks do not turn this idea into the next big thing and we are inundated with prime time talk shows (or prime time hawk fests).

    Posted by kevinjgsalem December 9, 08 12:53 PM
  1. Yes, i'll be watching Leno at 10pm- which is even better than when I lived in the Midwest and watched him at 10:35pm every night.

    Posted by david lee December 9, 08 01:04 PM

  1. Leno is boring as all hell, Letterman is ok and Conan is sometime funny. I would not watch any of them at 10pm.

    Posted by James E Stevenson December 9, 08 01:15 PM
  1. Leno and Conan are funnier than any of you people writing in, including myself. Jay's skits don't match Letterman's, which in the 80's were classic television, but his monologue is better. Conan is quite quick it's just he's on so late nobody notices.

    Posted by ed sargent December 9, 08 02:21 PM
  1. If I were Conan, I'd feel like I'm being upstaged right now. Instead of being the true successor to Leno, now all they're really doing is moving their schedule up an hour. Conan is the funniest late night host second only to Jon Stewart, while Leno is one of the most dull hosts on television. Why does he get good ratings? Well, there are a lot of boring, unfunny people out there who appreciate boring, unfunny humor.

    Posted by Andy Anonymous December 9, 08 02:31 PM
  1. Someone mentioned Craig Ferguson and, actually, I'd love to see HIM take over for Jay. He's much more interesting than Conan and his material doesn't feel staged. I especially like the bit at the end of his show when he sits there with his tie and collar undone, reflecting on how things went. Reminds me of how most of us look at the end of a long day!

    Posted by Kyasi December 9, 08 03:02 PM
  1. Uggh......I'm so tired of Leno, and really looking forward to just having Conan on NBC. Now we have to continue to look at Leno's gigantic chin and listen to his annoying laugh.

    Posted by Cindy Lou Who December 9, 08 03:05 PM
  1. A sure ratings booster for the 10 o'clock news.

    Posted by me December 9, 08 03:07 PM
  1. Maybe if CBS put Craig Ferguson on at 10 pm I'd watch a 10 pm talk show. Conan's good but Ferguson is much better. Craig isn't Johnny but he's the closest thing on TV to Johnny Carson. So until they move his time slot I'll be TIVO ing Craig and watching him everyday!

    Posted by dj December 9, 08 03:21 PM
  1. Yipee! Of course I'll watch Jay. I used to force myself to stay awake just to hear his much loved monologue. It's a win-win situation for all. Congrats to NBC for taking the chance on something new, and keeping a ratings winner!

    Posted by Keebored December 9, 08 03:32 PM
  1. At least NBC is trying something instead of the same old same old. Reality shows are in unsult to adult intelligence and CSI is getting VERY tired.

    Posted by XENOPHON December 9, 08 04:04 PM
  1. Amen, Larry "Bud" Melman (51). Agree with you totally. Don't watch Leno now and will not watch him at 10. He kind of gives me the creeps.

    Posted by Meg December 9, 08 07:26 PM
  1. I will watch Jay at 10:00. I tape his show now as I cannot stay up that late. I'm glad that NBC smartened up and found a way to keep him.

    Posted by John December 9, 08 09:15 PM
  1. Jay Leno is great, at least he doesn't get RUDE and CRUDE (as do the other 2 late night hosts). He seems as well to be nice in his 'every day life' . I understand the other 2 have personal problems--maybe that is why they vent on TV.

    Posted by akel December 10, 08 06:44 AM
  1. Those with long memories will remember that this is not the first time one of the networks has tried this. Back in the 60's ABC gave Dick Cavett a prime time talk show which aired, if I remember correctly, three nights a week at 10 pm.

    Posted by jim December 12, 08 08:46 PM
  1. Re: OBAMA appearance on Leno. . First who is OBAMA to tell our youth what vocation to take in life. That is an individual choice. He(president) must really hate WallStreet). Also apology for the bowling joke. Had an opposition politico or everyday Joe made that remark they would have been CRUCIFIED by the liberals/media. Next, not aware of bonuses for AIG etc.?? Why wasn't the pork removed from the stimulus Bill or doesn't he read it?. Also the president acts like he is not aware of what his appointees are up to. I think not! I used to be a leno fan but no more since using his show for political agendas.

    Posted by Mike Zamieski March 20, 09 02:36 PM

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