PASADENA, Calif.--Who were those NBC executives? Critics were shocked and confused this morning when Avators disguised as NBC programming executives took centre stage at the TCA press tour and treated us like adults, with graciousness, humility and respect.
The one that looked like NBC chairman Jeff Gaspin was especially impressive. Gaspin stepped up, took total responsibility for the late night/Leno mess (even though, six months into the job, he was not the brainiac behind any of it) and spilled all he could spill about the deals that are going down. There was none of the usual Peacock shuffle, the arrogance and inaccountability taken to operatic heights during the brief Ben Silverman administration. These guys knew they were caught at a press tour with their pants down around their ankles and the only decent thing left to do was to come clean.
Which is what they did.
After he and programming president Angela Bromstad finished defusing the room during a session that could have used a little more Tom Jicha (a veteran critic who always cuts to the chase but is sadly not attending this press tour), Gaspin stood on stage and took every query reporters could fire in an illuminating, 30-minute scrum session.
Bottom line, the rumors are true. “The Jay Leno Show” will air its last episode Feb. 11., just prior to the start of the Olympics. NBC is throwing in the towel on their kooky 10 p.m. experiment.
Beyond that, the answers weren’t so clear.
Gaspin told critics he has put the following proposal to his late night hosts: Jay Leno would host a new half hour series, probably called “The Jay Leno Show,” at 11:35. Conan O’Brien would host an hour-long “Tonight Show” beginning at 12:05. Jimmy Fallon would follow with an hour long “Late Night” at 1:05.
The three hosts were taking the weekend to think about it, said Gaspin. “As much as I’d like to tell you that’s a done deal, we know that’s not true.”
There's way more to this story and it's going into a perspective piece I'm writing today to be posted over at MSNBC.com. I'll link to it here as soon as my fingers stop bleeding. But Gaspin took a big step today toward restoring respect in the room toward NBC executives. He's going to need all that good will and more in the coming weeks and months.