Hey, you can’t be faulted for trying. That is pretty much what outgoing NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker had to say about his failed experiment to give late-night vet Jay Leno a ‘Tonight Show‘-like talker weeknights at 10 pm.
“I don’t regret what we did [with 'The Jay Leno Show']; I regret that we didn’t get it right,” Zucker shared during a panel at the Paley Center for Media’s International Council 2010, held this week in New York.
“If the show had been a little stronger, it would’ve been a genius move,” he posited. “The difference between failure and success was a couple of tenths of a ratings point. We took a risk, it didn’t work, and we stood up and said it didn’t work.”
Leno was awarded the eponymous 10 o’clock program several months after ‘The Tonight Show’ was turned over to Conan O’Brien in June 2009, as per the terms of a prearranged “passing of the baton.” When ‘The Jay Leno Show’ famously failed to perform, Leno ultimately was reinstalled as ‘Tonight Show’ host, after NBC paid Conan a lotta money to semi-quietly exit stage left.
O’Brien went on to launch a new late-night talker, ‘Conan,’ on TBS.
Despite his “no regrets” stance on ‘The Jay Leno Show,’ Zucker didn’t shrug off the sum total of any questionable programming decisions made during his tenure as NBCU boss. Rather, he copped to having made “poor choices at NBC Entertainment, and we couldn’t turn it around.”