Press Tour Notes: Showrunners keep piling on NBC, Jay Leno

08.08.09 8 years ago

Matt Sayles/AP

I’ve been a bad blogger. It’s been several days since I compiled a list of quotes featuring derision or mockery of NBC courtesy of schadenfreude-drunk talent associated with other networks. 

My bad.

Those absent quotes after the break…

Friday (Aug. 7) afternoon, the rivers ran read with Peacock blood, especially from FX’s showrunners panel, which was meant to discuss the directing of primetime drama, but inevitably turned in the direction of NBC, specifically Jay Leno the Drama Slayer.

Asked where TV’s drama writers could go now that NBC has eliminated five hours of potential drama territory per week, “The Shield” creator Shawn Ryan answered first.

“I would say that, first of all, you have networks like FX and many others where you can go. So there”s still places to sell yourself. I think the reason you”re hearing a very visceral backlash in the creative community to this is specific to NBC. I think you”ve got a generation of writers who grew up on their shows. I know I did. I mean, going all the way back to ‘Cheers’ and ‘Hill Street Blues,’ forward to ‘LA Law’ and ‘Friends’ and ‘ER,’ it was a network that really inspired me to write. I wrote 14, 15 spec scripts in the early, mid-“90s, trying to get work. And probably two-thirds of them were NBC shows. So to me, when I look at it, it”s something that feels offensive to me because it”s that network. That network used to stand for something better, I thought. And that”s not to say it won”t work, and it”s not to say that there aren”t plenty of other places to go. But in my opinion, it has something to do with the shows that used to air on NBC.”

“Rescue Me” co-creator Peter Tolan was more direct in his condemnation. 

“I feel they should take the American flag down in front of the building and just put up a white one, because they”ve clearly given up,” Tolan said. “They”ve clearly just said, ‘Look, we can”t develop. We can”t develop anything that”s going to stick. We have – clearly can”t find anything with any traction, so we quit.’ Am I wrong? I don”t think I”m wrong.”

Graham Yost of FX’s upcoming “Lawman,” who had a rocky relationship with NBC on “Boomtown,” at least found some kind of bright side.

“I remember getting really cranky with everyone at Sony and FX, saying, ‘Where am I going to find good writers? Everyone will be staffed,'” Yost recalled of his late-starting drama. “But the reality is 40 people essentially were put out of work by canceling five hours of dramatic programming. So it”s actually incredibly hard. There”s great people out there. And, you know, it”s kind of heartbreaking, but – so that”s my – I don”t comment on NBC. I just had a great relationship with them, so – no, I didn”t.”

Todd A. Kessler, of “Damages,” also tried to accentuate the positives.

“[T]o me, just feels like it”s an idea right now. And it may work, it may not work,” Kessler said. “And these things are cyclical. And a year from now, we”ll be having a very different conversation about it because it will have been around for a bit. And it seems like NBC is taking a bold move in a different direction. Hopefully, you know, what may come out of this is that they”ll go back, and I wish them all the best, but if it doesn”t work out, that maybe they”ll realize, ‘You know what? Let”s try doing 13-episode orderers and doubling down on different kinds of storytelling.'”

Actually, the day’s harshest words came from the man still working for NBC, “Southland” creator John Wells, who met with reporters later in the afternoon on the Warner Bros. lot.

“[I]t would be disingenuous for me to say anything other than this is what I do for a living, and we lost five hours” worth of time periods that had been known throughout the history of the network for putting some really terrific shows on,” said Wells, whose hits, including “E.R.,” have made NBC enough money that he probably doesn’t need to fear reprisals. “So I wish NBC and Jay Leno well, personally. He”s a very nice guy. But I hope he falls flat on his face and we get five dramas back. I mean, you know, that”s what I do for a living. That”s what I think should be on network television at 10:00. It should be an opportunity for narrative programs to be on the air. So it”s only one more thing that”s going to force more and more dramas into the basic cable and pay cable world. And they made the decision that they felt was necessary to make for financial purposes and whatever other decisions they had, but I hate it.”

“The Jay Leno Show” premieres on NBC on September 14.

Around The Web