What Will The New Jay Leno Show Mean For Music?

Dec 9th, 2008 // 13 Comments

Any music-related news that might have emerged today would have a hard time competing with NBC’s announcement that Jay Leno will have a nightly prime-time show beginning this fall, and that it’ll air in the 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central/Mountain) slot from Monday through Friday. With Conan O’Brien moving into Leno’s old spot and the Roots (and some dude from SNL who snickers a lot) moving into Conan’s spot, it’s worth looking at how the late-night opportunities for musical acts will shake out in the coming months.



According to The New York Times, Leno’s show will likely stay more or less the same as his current one, including bits like “Jaywalking.” While one insider was quick to point out that the show wasn’t going the variety hour route, I would assume that if the show is largely remaining intact, the musical segments would still be a part of things. An opportunity to appear during the last minutes of prime time would be a highly sought-after spot for any band, but is there going to be enough music to go around?

Leno’s program is one of the few to consistently have a musical act nearly every night, although with Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson booked for tonight, I’m not sure their relentless booking is doing us any favors. When Jimmy Kimmel and Carson Daly’s shows were added to the late-night lineup, that talent bookers had to go a little deeper/get a little more desperate to fill time—when there were fewer talk shows, would an act like Crystal Castles have a chance to appear on television? Probably not. While seeing these bands on the air isn’t quite the music discovery service that it might have once been, when your town can sometimes end up outside the touring circuit, you take whatever opportunity you can get to see a band you enjoy.

I wouldn’t expect to see Crystal Castles rocking Burbank this fall, but the pre-newscast exposure should be something labels and acts would be sure to seek. Leno dominates his time slot now with around five million viewers a night, numbers that would already beat three of the five shows NBC rolls out at 10 p.m. now. Leno’s choices are on the safe side already (albeit with occasional Christian-rock leanings, as seen in recent bookings Third Day and Relient K), and the possibility of a bigger audience 90 minutes earlier would seem to only reinforce those sort of tendencies. Maybe the bad news of more middle of the road music in primetime is balanced out by a few more chances for new acts in the insomniac hours.

Where Is Leno Going? To Prime Time, on NBC [NY Times]

  1. Anonymous

    I think Leno has (historically) always skewed towards acts that have had a fair amount of mainstream coverage while Letterman usually was known to take more “risks”. I bet it stays the same.

  2. Anonymous

    Everyone just moves forward a slot. Bruce Springsteen is on Leno at 9:45, The Bronx are on Conan at 11:25 and a bunch of buskers they found on the street are on Fallon at 3 a.m. or whatever

  3. Michaelangelo Matos

    @tim_loves_cats: I think so, yeah. I wonder, too, if this isn’t a boon for musical acts on TV in a way: another later slot opens to have more bands on, etc. Wouldn’t necessarily mean more adventurous music being programmed onto the shows, of course, but it opens the possibility a bit.

  4. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    This move saddens me. As a music fan, I agree that its good that there will be 5 more performance slots opening up, but as a television fan it sucks to lose 5 hours of original primetime programming.

    First, they show reruns on Saturday nights (not that I’m home to watch original programming, but some people are) and now this. That’s a lot of tv writer and producer jobs going bye-bye. And even if those shows weren’t great, a lot of good television is produced by people on their 3 and 4th shows. (Not to mention that some shows grow to be good, and there are now 5 less progamming hours per week for that to happen.) I guess its like when news magazines and then reality shows took over the schedule. They (like a talk show) are cheaper to produce than original programming and so help the bottom line, but I honestly think we are losing a lot of creative entertainment as a (pop) culture.

  5. michaelpop

    @How do I say this … THROWDINI!:

    Of those 5 hours a week that you speak of, currently 2 hours are filled with Law & Order, 1 by the departing ER and 1 by the already canceled My Own Worst Enemy. The other hour goes to Dateline.

    I don’t think we’re losing a lot of creative entertainment there.

  6. Chris Molanphy

    @michaelpop: Word.

    To me, the interesting thing will be whether the new Leno show books musical acts as consistently, at all.

    Generally, unless a musician’s last name is Springsteen (and usually not even then), a talk show’s musical guest goes on last, because music in the digital age is so niche-focused they’re guaranteed to lose a big chunk of viewers to the remote control.

    Then, you throw prime time into the mix: are they going to risk alienating a chunk of their audience, five nights a week, with music? (Remember, even somebody as huge as Celine Dion or Mariah Carey alienates some core demo: men under 50, for example.)

    My bet: Leno’s acts will be the big, big draws, but they’ll only appear two or three nights a week.

  7. MrStarhead

    @How do I say this … THROWDINI!: Dateline’s hardly a cash cow. It’s only on as time-filler these days; the ratings are awful.

  8. silkyjumbo

    @Maura Johnston: ugh, that new ada is working my nerves.

  9. Anonymous

    I much prefer staring at Ingrid Michaelson’s jugs than hearing Crystal Castles perform. Just sayin’.

  10. Lucas Jensen

    @Maura Johnston: I was gonna defend Rohm and then I wasn’t.

  11. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    @michaelpop: Not that I watch any of those 5 shows, nor am I necessarily willing to defend the idea that every major network, primetime show is top-flight enteratainment, but I’d argue that you’re wrong that we are not losing “creative enteratainment.”

    First, while ER might suck now (I don’t really watch it) it has been on for 15 years, has helped lauch/relauch/employ many fine actors — Clooney, Edwards, LaSalle, Tierney, etc. — and has produced many, many hours of quality television.

    Second, while My Own Worst Enemy did indeed suck, at least the concept was interesting. Perhaps a different group of writers and producers could have pulled it off. A well-produced spy show can be very good and tell far more complex and interesting stories than a 2-hour Bond movie.

    As to L&O and Dateline, if you think those cash cows are going to be cancelled, instead of being moved to other time periods at the cost of shows that even you might consider “creative entertainment,” I’d take that wager. And again, I think a big loss is in the nubmer of people being employed as writers and show runners. Not everything show is great, but I think it helps to keep trying before you find your voice. Five less hours of primetime is five less hours of people honing their skills.

  12. fabulousrobots

    @michaelpop: But why do I keep worrying this will somehow affect my dear “Chuck”?

    It is unlikely that I will be awake enough to ever watch this show, plus I think Leno’s schtick is kind of boring. I think I *might* try to stay awake if interesting musical acts were booked, which probably wouldn’t happen. It would be nice to see the producers take some risks with booking, but Leno’s been so successful for so long with generic musical guests and bland actors.

  13. Maura Johnston

    hey nobody in here better be dissing law & order, unless you’re making fun of a) the rohm/thompson era or b) that new ada on special victims unit

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