leno time coverNBC is putting Jay Leno in the cat food aisle, but Time magazine has put Jay Leno on its cover this week. Unbelievably, there’s nothing new in the article (and people wonder why print media is dying). There’s just one interesting quote from, of all people, former NBC President Fred Silverman: “If the Leno Show works, it will be the most significant thing to happen in broadcast television in the last decade.” But I’ve been asking NBC repeatedly what is the metric that’ll be used to determine if the Jay Leno show is successful? In response, I get a lot of “ums” and “ers”. And yet, Time magazine says “NBC has set the bar low enough for a sleeping man to clear. If Leno can just get the ratings he did in late night, some 5 million viewers (paltry by 10 p.m. standards), his show will be more profitable than what it replaced in that time slot, reps say.” Leno himself laughs off the networks’ numbers obsession, recently telling someone I know, “I have no idea how that works. Just because I like women doesn’t mean I want to be a gynecologist.” But only a compliant newsmagazine would accept that NBC metric without laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of it. For crissakes, advertisers already have balked at paying primetime rates for what will be the Leno Show‘s late night ratings. And let’s remember that Leno’s primetime ratings still won’t equal those of the worst viewed scripted 10 PM show. Once again, this is Jeff Zucker managing for margins, not ratings. (But I’m told he now regrets his statement last March that “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say, ‘NBC is No. 1 in prime time.'”) NBC-logo-RGB-pos2Meanwhile, I can tell you that Leno is telling pals NBC has not given his Jay Leno Show even one fresh or significant idea for the new show. “Not one idea,” Leno has confided. The result is that the Jay Leno Show will be identical to Jay’s familiar format except in chronology: monologue, comics doing filmed segments, guest interviews, then end with those those lame Jaywalking and All-Stars bits. Which just shows how badly NBC needs a real leader. I still recall how, in late 1993 when NBC was in last place, Don Ohlmeyer came in and the first thing he did was to retool Jay’s Tonight Show. What’s Jeff Gaspin doing? (Blank stares…) One last thing — if the Leno Show doesn’t work, Jay thinks no one will even remember. And that his legacy will be that he hosted The Tonight Show for 17 years.