You could surely do a lot worse with just three dollars than going to Amazon.com and buying a copy of Bill Carter's book The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & The Network Battle For The Night.
If you haven't already read it, then maybe you saw the HBO movie that was made of it featuring an actor with a huge, obviously fake chin playing Leno and another guy playing Letterman who inexplicably kept throwing a ball at an archery target. (?)
"But, Bean," you are exclaiming, probably internally because nobody talks out loud to a blog, "that topic is so 1995. Why bring it up now?"
Because the Network Battle For The Night Part 2 may be happening behind closed doors in Hollywood and New York right now.
Peep out the latest article from Mr. Carter, who writes about television for the New York Times here. If you don't care to read it, here is the gist of it in the opening paragraphs,
"The Jay Leno chase is on.
Four years ago, NBC made the comedian the lame-duck host of “The Tonight Show,” announcing with fanfare that he would be succeeded by Conan O’Brien in 2009.
Today, Mr. Leno is still the champion of late-night ratings, with no apparent desire to do anything else but continue on top. “What I do,” he has said on several occasions to colleagues, “is tell jokes at 11:30 at night.”
And so, nearly two years before he can officially be courted, suitors including two networks, ABC and Fox, and at least one television studio, Sony Pictures Television, are beginning to circle, doing everything they legally can to make sure Mr. Leno knows that they will make it possible for him to continue doing just that..."
Me now: Okay, so if I'm NBC and I've already announced that Conan takes over the Tonight Show in 2009 and now have to worry about the King of Late Night ending up being new competition against me on Fox or ABC, here's what I do. Put on The Jay Leno Show every weeknight at 10:00.
You get a guaranteed hit in prime time five nights a week. which raises the ratings for the affiliate 11:00 news and, in turn, the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien too. NBC has already proven, more than any of the major networks, that they can't come close to fielding 15 hours of prime time hits a week. With this plan they wouldn't have to anymore.
Sure, there are a few niggling details that you could counter and some legal and logistical snags that might have to be worked out but it sounds like a winner to me. Networks are bleeding viewers. New hits are hard to find, afford, and promote. It counter programs well against anything else on the dial at that time.
Boom goes the dynamite.