The Jay Leno thing never seemed like a good idea to me. Probably that’s because I’ve settled into my middle age snuggling up to my nighttime dramas. It reminds me of my mother and how she has to watch her “programs.” She’ll watch anything any time. Reruns of 24 cycle daily off of her DVR, continuity never seems to be a problem. The suspense and drama never change. I’m not quite as devoted a TV watcher as that. I don’t watch reruns of Medium on Lifetime (okay, so not that often anyway). I try to stay current and up to date with the new shows as well as the ones I’ve become attached to.
The Law and Order franchise, for instance, grew an entire society around its existence. It is not something that can be replaced by Jay Leno. We have been raised like farm animals to follow a predictable pattern. We come home from work, or we disentangle ourselves from our home jobs, then we cobble together a dinner, perhaps something from scratch or perhaps take-out (okay, frozen pizza). We watch the nightly news at 6:30p.m., or presumably, then we watch the family hour with our kids, or we find something to watch until the family hour is over.
The order of these activities may change. The types of shows watched, or the fact that no shows at all were watched, doesn’t really matter because by the time 9 p.m. rolls around, we’re ready for some gritty crime solving, psychic mumbo jumbo to catch serial killers, water-cooler romantic comedies maybe — but by 10 p.m.? Does anyone really want to watch a talk show five days a week? By 10pm, the kids should be in bed and the brutality emerges like the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are.
Courtroom dramas, hard-hitting cop shows, and yet more serial killers and child molesters. We’re tired. Life has kicked us around AGAIN. We don’t want to kick up our feet and find the energy to laugh at jokes. We don’t feel like laughing. We want revenge on the bad guys. We want to see good prevail and evil crumble. This is what we have to look forward to during the Fall season of television programming.
But because NBC thought it was necessary to cut costs by introducing a brand new idea of having Jay Leno perform every night at 10 p.m. the best shows in those time slots have vanished into thin air. Once you lose those audiences, as they flee to other networks to find some salvation, you never get them back.
Things weren’t very good for NBC as it was. Producing those watchable cop dramas costs a lot more than producing a Jay Leno talk show. The thing they forgot, though, was that we as a people must be programmed for this long in advance. We were migrating birds heading back to the same watering hold year after year. Change in our path will have to come slowly.
To NBC’s credit, they didn’t stick yet another mind-numbing reality show in that time slot. What they did took guts. If the ratings begin to dip, however, we’ll all know why. So far, Leno is eking out a decent enough turnout. Our whole culture will have to change, however, for this to work in the long term.