Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Jay Leno Was A Big Fat, Big-Titted Failure---Even Jeffrey F. Ucker Knows That (so why the hell don't you?)
So, the latest bug up my booty comes from the still out there, still alive and well, still active and pissing me off notion that Jay Leno at 10 pm actually worked financially for NBC exactly the way they expected it would. The idea behind this argument is that NBC was making money off Leno at 10, and that NBC was never expecting to pull in real ratings, anyway--just ratings that would make them money.
In other words, this moronic sentiment can be summed up thusly: Leno at 10 worked for the network; it just didn't work for the affiliates.
Well, I cry BULLSHIT!
And I cry a whole lot more after the jump.
Where to start with this? How can such a short sentiment contain so much manure? How can so many smart people be so stupid when it comes to NBC's weak spin doctoring? They cannot all be Leno fans, can they? I mean, is that it? Is it just that people dumb enough to find Leno funny are also the ones dumb enough (and motivated enough) to be clogging the message boards with NBC's weak explanation over and over again?
Look---10 pm programming has always been about two things: making money for the nets and providing a lead-in to the late local news and the late night yak-fests. For the last 40-50 years, those duel goals were achieved identically: through ratings. Ratings meant money for nets, and they meant an audience for the shows in the following time slot, which was called "retention." Retention is not nearly as important in today's A.D.H.D. society as it was during the days of four channels and PBS, but it still does mean something. The ratings of one show still do affect the ratings of the next show, especially on the networks, which cater to a different, more malleable audience than does cable. And this is especially important if the show depending on a lead in from the last show is the most important show of the night for all stations everywhere: the late local news.
See, in local television, local news is the King, the Queen, the Prince, the Princess, and the hot wenches and studs who service the entire fatted royal family. It's simplistic to say that local news makes ALL of the money for local stations, but. . . local news makes ALL THE FUCKING MONEY for local stations.
Everything works off of local news. The percentage of the income local news generates for a station is high, and the ratings for the many other local shows which every station produces can be tied directly or indirectly to what local news does. Local news is fucking God Almighty.
Now, if you do not follow television, that fact may be a surprise to you. But if you are a freaky, rapacious and egotistical network executive, this is not a surprise to you. If you are a network suit, this fact is as well known as the fact that breathing in and breathing out is very important to most any endeavor involving even the lowest life forms.
NBC knew this, and they knew that anything they tried to do at 10 pm would have to pass the goddamn affiliate test everywhere from Albuquerque to Sandusky. Hell, even going beyond that, everything you do in every time slot has at least some effect on what comes after it, and it all ends up leading into the late local news. That butterfly flapping his wings in Malaysia? Even that has an effect on the late local news.
So, yeah, Leno was cheap. He was cheap to produce; his jokes were cheap to buy, steal or recycle; and this all made his overall cost less than a third of what it cost to produce a scripted drama. Hell, it was probably 10% the cost of some of the top rated, most expensive dramas. So, yeah, Leno was cheap, and Leno was guaranteed to make a profit, and perhaps that profit would be solid enough to be solace for the fact that he was never going to make anyone any syndication profits (the pot of gold at the end of the television rainbow) or sell DVD box-set #1 (the very rich icing on the cake).
Hell, it was even likely that he was so cheap and so guaranteed to make at least a small, tidy profit that he was worth the ridicule that his lame show and low ratings were sure to engender. In fact, if he were to actually somehow surprise and post ratings in line with a lower-tier but successful 10 pm drama (totally unlikely, but at least as possible as winning the Mega Millions) then he wasn't just going to make a tidy profit, he was going to make a serious profit---one that could perhaps make up for forgoing much of the ancillary profits that scripted dramas can generate when they hit (which is billions and billions of dollars in these days when nets try and produce their own shows whenever possible).
But hitting the jackpot was not the point, so says Jeffery F. Ucker, head of NBC, and so say all of his acolytes, sycophants and douche bags. They will tell you loudly now (and they said so softly, then) that hitting a homer was never part of the equation. They say now that they knew that Leno would not draw big ratings, and that he never needed to do so---that it was never part of the equation. Leno was cheap and easy, like a ten-dollar whore, and they say that was the whole point to Jeff Fucker. Ten dollar whores are good value for money, and so what if you have to maybe take a butt-load of penicillin now and again, or maybe end up dying in the long term? In the short term, you got laid!
But whither local news, you say? Well, this is where the Big Lie is exposed and the ten-dollar hooker and low expectations argument falls to pieces, because local news HAD to be a part of this equation. Jeff Fucker and Co. absolutely understood from the gate that if Leno drew no more viewers at 10 pm then he drew at 11:35, then the Jay Leno Crap-Fest Extravaganza would be an abject failure. No matter how much money a cheap-ass show and a 1.5 rating (or lower) could pull in for NBC (and would not be much when you consider that they were giving up at least four hours of prime time real estate that had the potential to become billions), a 1.5 rating would not be in any way acceptable for a show that was serving as both a money generator and a local news and late night talk show lead in. A 1.5 rating would kill local news, which would in turn likely kill The Tonight Show (as would the fact that, for many people, the Tonight Show had just aired at 10 pm, so they could go to bed).
Ergo, NBC did not expect Leno to pull a 1.5 rating, because a 1.5 rating, while marginally profitable, would have been understood to be a network killer from the moment this idea was first ill-conceived. They knew they could technically make money with a 1.5 rating, but they also knew they could not actually keep Leno on the air with a 1.5 rating. So, maybe if---in some bizzaro-world---Leno and his 1.5 rating was actually making them those billions that a real show potentially could have made, then maybe Jeff Fucker could have said, "It's a big, fat, big-titted hit, and I don't have to waffle around with Ruddy anymore," with Ruddy being, in this case, the affiliates. But that's decidedly not the type of money a 1.5 makes in the real world, even if Leno did the show for free in his underpants (which, in a sense, he was).
I don't think telling the affiliates to go fuck themselves was ever a consideration, but maybe that was what J-Fucker was thinking. Maybe J-Fucker looked in the mirror and saw Robert Duvall in Network. Maybe J-Fucker couldn't do the fucking math.
Maybe. But I doubt it. No--J-Fucker needed that Saudi money bad, and a 1.5 was going to start a war with the affiliates and never produce anything like Saudi money. (In this nth real life variation on the movie Network, you can simply substitute the word "Philly" for "Saudi.")
So, J-Fucker is a moron, but he ain't stupid. He could do the math, and he knew that IF Leno was to be a success (no matter how fixed and cheap his costs were), he would still have to provide a lead in to the late local news. So, that means that J-Fucker had to believe that Leno would get those type of ratings (for at least a little while); that Jay Leno would provide a real lead-in for the late local news (for at least a little while); and that the Jay Leno Crap-Fest Extravaganza would be a big, fat, big-titted hit (for at least a little while), and then J-Fucker could buy fucking waffles for the whole country on the profits. Because for the pittance he was paying Leno, J-Fucker knew that the bar was low and a Leno show that drew even low-rated (but still marginally successful) drama ratings would be a gigantic success for NBC, at least in the short term. And, hey, the short term is all that matters to corporate execs these days. Short term success gets you promoted (again), and then the long term failure you created can be blamed on those who come after you. J-Fucker didn't invent that type of corporate maneuver. Hell, that's been Corporation 101 for decades now. Why in the hell do think our economy crashed in the first place?
So, J-Fucker and his NBC monkey boys all had to honestly believe that Jay Leno at 10 pm would draw serious ratings, maybe even big, fat, big-titted ratings, and for that reason---and that reason alone---they were willing stick all their dicks right into a thresher and hope they could dance around the blades.
Now, how do I know all of this? How, you may ask, do I know that NBC actually expected The Jay Leno Crap-Fest Extravaganza to do significantly better in the ratings than the bullshit 1.5 that they are STILL trying to tell us was exactly what they expected?
I know it because The Jay Leno Crap-Fest Extravaganza got TAKEN OFF THE FUCKING AIR AFTER FIVE FUCKING MONTHS!
Do you really think that J-Fucker would have put a show on the air that he'd have to take off the air five months later for "getting exactly the ratings we wanted and expected"? If so, let me take a moment to tell you that the fine hairs from my asshole have been shown to cure cancer, blindness, male pattern baldness, and impotence, and I am willing to sell them for a million dollars apiece. Please leave me your email address below.
"But it was the affiliates that had the problem, not the networks," says every Fucking Idiot/Shill/Hack/Leno-Fan in the country?
So, what, J-Fucker just forgot that 10 pm had to function as an effective lead in to the late local news? After 40 years as a broadcast maxim, this just slipped J-Fucker's mind?
Look, I'm calling him a moron, but if you believe that crap, then you are calling J-Fucker a brain-dead toad-monkey. If leading in to the late local news was never a factor in NBC's collective---for lack of a better term---mind, then you are talking about mass gross financial negligence. You are talking about forgetting that every plan ever devised by anyone anywhere has always required all of its participants to breath in and breath out on a regular basis.
Yeah, I just don't think J-Fucker is that stupid.
No--he was just stupid enough to believe that Jay Leno would be a hit, and just smart enough to realize that if he pushed the right buttons, managed expectations enough, and fed the right bullshit to the right people at the right time, then there were a whole host of total fucking idiots out there who would defend him to the death in print and online when the JLC-FE turned out to be a total failure.
So, J-Fucker was dumber than he should be, but he was a lot smarter than his idiotic defenders have turned out to be. Hell, even Defendor is a lot smarter than J-Fucker's defenders are.
NBC knew 1.5 was a possibility, but they didn't really believe it. They floated that number out there just in case, but you don't rework network scheduling from top to bottom unless you believe it will be a success. You don't do much of anything at a network, or at any giant conglomerate, unless you believe it will be a success. J-Fucker thought he was reinventing the fucking wheel. He thought he'd please his corporate masters, satisfy the affiliates, and secure the greater glorification of Jeffery F. Ucker in one fell swoop.
So, let's say fuck you, Zucker. And let's say shame on you if you bought into his party line. And---well... let's just say fuck you, too, honey, if you're still buying into it. Never has a man fallen upward further than Jeffrey Fucking Zucker, and never did so many complicit idiots conspire to help him do it.
I guess Paddy Chayefsky really did live and die in vain.