You can read the particulars at all the big and small TV industry websites (Broadcasting & Cable, The Hollywood Reporter, TV Week, TV Guide, Variety) but the tall and short of it is simply this: NBC has announced it will give its 10-11PM time slot to Jay Leno starting some time next year. In other words, Jay Leno will helm a talk show five days a week, effectively cutting back the network’s output from fifteen hours Monday through Friday to ten hours. The New York Times calls the move a “novelty” while Variety points out that NBC has twice considered “stripping” a 10PM non-scripted program.
Reading about what I’m certain will be seen as a “historic” scheduling change on the part of NBC (whether history will be kind to the concept depends on how the Nielsen numbers pan out) led me to wonder when was the last time one of the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) actually aired the same program five nights a week, Monday through Friday? In the late 1940s and early 1950s when the networks and commercial television were still in their infancy it wasn’t uncommon for programs to be shown ever weeknight. Airing the same program Monday/Wednesday/Friday was also fairly routine. But these were mostly fifteen-minute shows and were variety or talk shows.
For eight weeks in the summer of 1949, NBC aired a fifteen-minute version of Mary Kay and Johnny Monday through Friday from 7:15-7:30PM. And for many years in the early 1950s DuMont broadcast Captain Video five nights a week, at times even six nights a week, expanding to include Saturdays. I’m sure there must be other examples of scripted programs shown five nights a week but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
For a few years in the mid-1960s serialized half-hour programs were all the rage and at one point ABC was showing Peyton Place three times a week (other twice weekly offerings included Batman, Shindig and Dr. Kildare — I’m sure there’s a Television Obscurities article somewhere in this) but the trend died out quickly. As many of the articles on NBC’s announcement mention, daytime soap operas are shown five days a week. MyNetworkTV made an ill-fated attempt to bring the daily, serialized soap opera to prime time during its first season on the air (2006-2007).
The last time a scripted network series was shown more than once a week on a regular basis that I can think of was NBC’s Committed, which ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two weeks in January of 2006 before settling down to once a week. However, game shows and news magazines are often shown two or three times a week (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Deal or No Deal, Dateline). I’m willing to make the bold prediction that Jay Leno’s new daily talk show will do well during its first week on the air, and certainly its premiere should attract many interested viewers. How the second week will perform is another matter.
I thought something was different about The New York Times‘s article. As I was writing this, article on the paper’s website changed. It used to contain the following sentence:
No broadcast network has ever before offered the same show in prime time five nights a week.
That sentence was replaced with this one:
Running the same show in prime time five nights a week would be a novelty for a broadcast network.
TVbytheNumbers has the original line. I thought I was imagining things.