Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nomination for "Weasel of the Week": Jeff Zucker

Sam Wilson has had the "Idiot of the Week" over at his Think 3 blog, so I figured it was time to do something like that here, hence the "Weasel of the Week".

The first nomination goes to NBC's Jeff Zucker, who has made a mess of things of late. A product of the panic button mentality of network suits, Zucker listened to complaints from a number of NBC affiliates dissatisfied with The Jay Leno Show's declining ratings taking viewers away from their late news. Zucker's knee-jerk reaction was to chop Leno in half and move it into late night, back to the 11:35 (ET) space that Jay occupied on The Tonight Show for 17 years. The dominoes would fall from there, with Tonight moving to 12:05, and so on.

One problem. Current Tonight host Conan O'Brien is not a happy camper, as one might've expected, and is unwilling to accept what he feels would be a demotion. O'Brien correctly pointed out that by moving Tonight to an after midnight (ET) slot, it damages a franchise that has been one of NBC's crown jewels for more than 50 years. O'Brien denied a Monday article that claimed Fox was interested in signing him away from NBC, and said he wasn't sure what his next move would be.

The problem is that Zucker and his bosses at NBC-Universal didn't want to part with Leno in the first place, fearing he might sign with Fox or ABC, for example. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The best solution in this case, something a short-minded executive like Zucker can't/probably won't think of, is to use Leno as a modern day Bob Hope, and have him do a series of specials in prime time. Once every 3-4 months sounds like a good idea. That way, you keep the late night lineup intact without ruffling feathers.

Though I've never met the man, the best way I can describe Zucker is to invoke the spirit of the late Capt. Lou Albano, and guess that Zucker has "the brain of a dehydrated pea-bean. Put it in a parakeet----ZING! It flies backwards!" On the whole, that might describe most network executives nowadays......!

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