Killer punch lines are a much-wanted antidote to grim crime dramas. That is NBC's thinking behind turning the closing hour of prime time over to The Jay Leno Show this fall.
In a video shown at the network's "infront" presentation, NBC humorously noted that many other 10 o'clock shows feature "murder ... murder ... and murder," as a flurry of clips from rival procedurals depicted death after death after death.
According to research presented by NBC, 71 percent of TV viewers wish they had more comedy options at 10. Leno, the Peacock believes/hopes, will satisfy that need — "and with 98 percent fewer murders."
The infront video was intercut with assorted celebrities weighing in "for" or "against" death-obsessed crime dramas. The segment ended with Rainn Wilson taking issue with the Leno move, at which point Jay comically gunned down the Office star. In the style of CSI: Miami's Horatio, Leno quipped, "That should put your issues to rest."
While NBC execs claim they will be "happy" even if Leno matches his Tonight Show numbers, they suspect or expect his viewership will increase, seeing as he will be playing to a 40 percent larger available audience.
What's more, while any rival will stretch out a 22-episode season peppered with repeats, Leno will air 46 weeks of originals — at, by the way, about 10 percent of the cost of producing an hour of scripted drama each night.
As for talk that giving Leno so much prime-time real estate came at the cost of regular programming, NBC execs pointed out that they thus far have picked up more series this year than last — and even more renewals could come on May 19, when the network unveils its complete lineup.
What's your take? Do night owls need laughs, too?