The latest issue of Time magazine has a cover story by TV critic James Poniewozik in which Poniewozik asserts that Jay Leno is the future of television.
He may very well be right, but God help us. Or God help me, at least.
Ever since NBC announced that Leno would be taking his bland late night antics into primetime five nights a week, I've been stewing over the subsequent loss of 5 weekly hours of scripted dramas. To make room, NBC has already had to send two of their "Law & Order" shows to earlier timeslots (will the decidedly adult themes of the stories change?), and they had to ship "Medium" off to CBS. And that's not even considering the new shows they will never develop because there's no room.
Poniewozik points out that since the new show will be so much cheaper to produce than a scripted show, Leno's success won't be measured by ratings, but by any increase in NBC's profit margin. He also points out that since NBC has performed so badly in the past few years, almost any amount of success by Leno will be considered a grand slam.
So, after this fall season, expect other networks to do a cost-benefit analysis of Leno's ratings and make similar decisions. Expect entire nights of nothing but reality shows and talkshows on network TV. And expect to keep going to cable (AMC, FX, USA, Lifetime, HBO, Showtime) for quality comedies and dramas.