NBC & Leno: From Bad to Worse

VIDEO: Leno jokes about cancellation rumors…

Me, I shouldn’t talk. I’ve never succumbed to Leno’s seductions. I used to like Conan, but haven’t paid him much attention in the decade since. Still, if NBC rewards Leno’s colossal failure weeknights at 10 by moving him back to 11:30 — thereby kicking Conan back to after midnight — the move deserves to be greeted with a deafening roar.

That’s my gut talking. I’ve yet to read reports from NYTimes, LATimes, WSJ, WaPo, or ChicTrib. Or blog buzz from TMZ, Huff Po, Hollywood Reporter, the Masked Scheduler (who has some empathy for Leno)…

LATER — Oh really???

In a statement, NBC said, “Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today. As we have said all along, Jay’s show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance.”

The unsolved mystery, what happens at 10?

What sparked Thursday’s flurry of Web reports was unclear, but coincided with reports this week that NBC has as many as 18 pilots for prospective new series – presumably more than would be needed to replenish a prime-time schedule for a network that expected to continue filling five hours weekly with Leno’s show.

Will Conan stay?

The bottom line on Leno is this: If NBC is not denying that it is studying a late-night switcheroo, then something is definitely afoot. Affiliates are not going to continue to tolerate a weak lead-in, and O'Brien's "Tonight Show" ratings have not set the world on fire. So it would appear that is Leno headed back to late night in a month or so and the dutiful, hard-working O'Brien will once again be left holding the bag.

In other late night news… David Letterman’s joke Tuesday night at the expense of transgender presidential appointee Amanda Simpson has LGBT rights groups calling for an apology. Meanwhile, the Family Research Council is outraged, OUTRAGED, that the appointment ever got made. And the Obama administration has quietly added gender identity protection to the federal jobs website

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