With the rise of Jay Leno’s ghost from 11:30pm to 10:00pm, we are left to wonder if his five night a week strip show on NBC will remove the hard-hitting medical drama from the television landscape.
The 10pm timeslot was always home to the best drama on television, and NBC’s role in that historic aesthetic is undeniable:
Until now, the 10pm hour on NBC as well as on its main competitors – ABC and CBS – was precisely for drama. Shows that were conceived for this “adult” portion of primetime have over the years included the likes of ER, Hill Street Blues, LA Law and Law & Order and its spin-offs. All were made by NBC and all became legendary shows that were exported around the world.
The network may have offered the prized slot to Leno because it, like everyone else, had heard the rumours that he was considering offers from rivals, including ABC and Fox. But most observers saw the announcement as being much more about money, and saving it.
A glimpse at the ER numbers tells the story to some degree. Where once the medical drama captured an audience in the US of nearly 25 million, it now draws 10 million or fewer.
Much newer shows given the 10pm slot at NBC have not done well either, especially in this latest autumn season. The network had great hopes of a new Christian Slater vehicle, My Own Worst Enemy, as well as a second season of Lipstick Jungle, a pale and barely gripping sequel to Sex and the City. Both nosedived. Both shows have been cancelled for good, as has ER.
Has the sanctity of the 10pm timeslot been lost forever?
Or will the hardest hitting dramatic themes — child abuse, drug addiction, government malfeasance — merely be moved into the 9pm timeslot where kids are watching and soaking in every inference and imitation for behavior modeling in the daylight hours?