NBC Is Flying a Lot of Pilots -- Is It Really to Fill Up Jay Leno Airspace? [UPDATED]

Last Updated Jan 5, 2010 3:55 PM EST

(UPDATE: Verne Gay over at Newsday, who has followed the minutiae of the TV business far longer than I have, furthers this theory: that NBC will bump Leno on Thursdays and Fridays, and that a show like NBC's planned remake of "Rockford Files" would only be suitable in a 10 p.m. weekday slot.)

At least one of my 2010 media predictions came true before I even wrote it -- in one of those headlines that got lost in the holiday shuffle, NBC is indeed producing a lot more pilots for the 2010-11 TV season, 18 in fact. If you're keeping score, that's more pilots than the network has produced since 2003. But according to president of primetime entertainment Angela Bromstad, the huge ramping up of pilot production -- last year the network produced only 11 -- has nothing to do with the tepid ratings of the 10 p.m. weeknight "Jay Leno Show" which I've predicted won't last until next year at this time. No, no. Instead Bromstad told Bloomberg that having Leno eat up five hours during the week will allow her to spend more time thinking about the 10 [weekday] hours from 8 to 10. "We have so many holes that we have to essentially rebuild the schedule. Not having the additional five hours has certainly relieved some of the pressure," she said.

Please, readers, take that with a grain of salt.

It seems like ordering so many pilots (NBC plans to produce 10 one-hour dramas and eight 30-minute sitcoms), just might leave it with some additional wiggle room if it decides to deep-six the "Leno" show, which seems a likelihood not only because of the show's ratings but because of the unfortunate ripple effect the show has had on local news and the network's late-night schedule. While the chances of any pilot making it on air are very low, and there's of course an even lower chance that a show will actually catch on, consider the following: NBC is ordering up enough pilots to fill the 8 to 10 slot almost one and a half times if the entire current schedule were to be obliterated. While that may be tempting to some who are sick of NBC's seven-year ratings decline -- not even counting this season -- shows like "The Office", "Biggest Loser" and "Law and Order" aren't going anywhere. (Actually, Bromstad has already confirmed "Law and Order" isn't going anywhere next season.)

I'm not saying that Bromstad is exactly stretching the truth in what she said above, but ordering up so many pilots is a great way to hedge one's bets, and if ever a broadcast network needed to do some hedging, it's NBC.

Previous coverage of NBC and "The Jay Leno Show" at BNET Media:
  • Catharine Taylor

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