Today will go down as a milestone, a watershed or a day of infamy– depending on your point of view– in network television history. But for us fans of reality TV (those of us who didn’t lose our jobs today, thanks to lamebrained corporate decisions), it’s party time.
Jeff Zucker, the former Today show wunderkind who’s now presiding over the failures of the “Peacock Network” as president of NBC Universal, announced the axing of 700 employees and the slashing of the sacred news budget in order to cut expenses by $750 million.
But that’s not the big news. The big news is that the tiny titan who Katie Couric and the Today show staff nicknamed “Miles” after the young producer in Murphy Brown announced another way NBC will save money: NBC will no longer schedule sitcoms or hour-long dramas in the 8 pm to 9 pm timeslot. Yes, the former “family hour” will now feature only cheap, “unscripted” shows. Reality shows. That means more Howie Mandel! More Bob Saget! (Both comedians, by the way, made their big money long ago in, respectively, hour-long dramas and sitcoms.)
Zucker says NBC is adjusting to the new digital age. But he’s also feeling heat from investors. NBC’s fading fortunes in the past few years, thanks in part to that big face behind Zucker in the photo above(and this season’s self-referential, hour-long dramas like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and sitcoms like 30 Rock have been cutting into all those profits that parent company General Electric has been making off the war in Iraq.