NBC Execs Bully Celebrities To Not Appear On Competing NYC Shows

FALLON’S RATINGS SUCCESS PROMPTS NBC TO STRONG HOLD STARS

There is good news and bad news in the talk show arena.  The good news is for Jimmy Fallon.  His successful ratings have breathed new life into The Tonight Show, so much so, that NBC has begun demanding exclusivity in order for A list guests to appear on the late night program.  The bad news is that other talk shows are going to have a difficult time getting these guests to appear on their lineups.  This moratorium on appearing on other shows doesn’t only include the late night circuit but also the morning talk shows.

jimmy-fallon-jimmy-kimmel wrestle onstage at the Academy Awards 2014For Press Agents this is also bad news. Whenever a star releases a film, a book or is featured on a new television series it is typical to do a press junket.  This allows the star to be seen on as many talk shows as possible to promote their newest venture.  NBC’s proposal will alter the entire method used by press agents to get their stars media attention.  It is interesting to note that by having The Tonight Show relocated to New York City the ability for stars to appear on multiple talk shows in a short period of time increased.  When Jay Leno and Johnny Carson hosted in Los Angeles it required a cross country flight to be seen on Late Night with David Letterman.  The unusual focus of NBC’s move was not to have first rights to a star appearance but to have all rights to a star appearance.

In August a foreshadowing of this type of exclusivity was evident on The Colbert Report when Daft Punk pulled out from the show due to an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards.  Stephen Colbert deftly skewered this type of move, noting that “once you see a band play a song you like, you obviously never want to see them again.”  The sarcasm  can be applied to  the situation with NBC.  It seems likely if you are a fan of George Clooney and he is on Jimmy Fallon you will still turn in if he is on The View.  The fact is that these shows have different demographics, which is the reason public relations personnel are keen to promote on both programs.  People who are watching at midnight are not often the people watching at 8 AM.  Therefore, NBC demand seems to be an unreasonable reach of a non-compete for artists to adhere to.

The other unknown aspect of this new exclusive demand is that no one knows what will happen to an artist if they choose to ignore the exclusivity.  Will Kim Kardashian never appear on The Tonight Show again if she goes on Late Night or The View after visiting Jimmy Fallon?  As no one knows it will land on the artist and agents to decide this issue.  Daft Punk chose not to appear on The Colbert Report but other artists may not adhere to such pressure.  Only time and the ratings will tell.

Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” Premieres On NBC To Great Fanfare

Jimmy Fallon on NBC's Tonight Show

It would have been hard for him to disappoint us.  On February 17th, 2014 Jimmy Fallon delighted audiences with an altogether successful inauguration as the new host of NBC’s The Tonight Show.  Stepping into the shoes worn by Jay Leno for 22 of the past 23 years, Fallon may not have struck a perfect balance between nervousness and humility in his first night on the job, yet he won us over with his coy charm and genuine gratitude for the opportunity to star in America’s longest running entertainment program. With Fallon’s initiation, the show has returned from Los Angeles to New York City, its original home from 1954 to 1972.  This has allowed Fallon to remain nearby his hometown of Saugerties in upstate New York – which made it relatively convenient for his parents Jim and Gloria Fallon, who sat proudly in the studio audience, to attend the premiere.  In Fallon’s opening monologue, he introduced himself as a 39 year-old man who lives in New York City with his beautiful wife Nancy and six month-old daughter Winnie, who is the best thing to have ever happened to him.  All in all, he succeeded in presenting himself as a loveable family man to whom the American public can’t help but relate.

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In one of the show’s more memorable bits, Fallon remarks that a buddy of his bet him $100 he would never host The Tonight Show.  Immediately, out walks an impressive procession of Hollywood stars and media icons, handing him $100: Robert DeNiro, Tina Fey, Joe Namath, Rudy Giuliani, Mariah Carey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers, Kim Kardashian, Seth Rogen, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, and finally, Stephen Colbert – who opted to spill 10,000 pennies over Fallon, including in his shirt.

In addition to being a major crowd pleaser, this episode served to contextualize Fallon as not only a nice young man, but one who must be really, incredibly cool to have so many famous friends show up for the occasion.  This also helped ground the new The Tonight Show amongst the particularly New York A-list.  Other celebrity appearances included Will Smith, who danced beside Fallon to demonstrate the ‘Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing,’ and U2, who played two songs in front of the New York skyline atop Rockefeller Center, harking back to the Beatles’ final concert on the rooftop of London’s Apple building in 1969.

Fallon’s premiere earned the third highest-ever ratings for The Tonight Show, with 11.3 million viewers tuning in.  The second highest was in May 2009 when Jay Leno stepped down as host for Conan O’Brien’s famously short-lived run, before Leno returned to the position one year later.  The highest was this past February 6th, when Leno retired for apparently the final time (14.6 million people watched).  Fallon’s debut likely benefited from its post-Winter Olympics placement, though that pushed it a half hour later than its regular 11:35pm timeslot.  In comparison to Fallon’s final episode of Late Night, which he hosted for 5 years, his The Tonight Show ratings were higher by 71 percent with an additional 6.6 million viewers.

Jimmy Fallon and Steven Colbert on The Tonight Show

These statistics do not necessarily include all the viewers of segments on YouTube, Hulu, or NBC’s own website.  One of Fallon’s best qualities is his ability to create share-worthy clips that are hilarious out of context, often which make serious people do silly things.  Still, for Fallon to stay atop his game in this new The Tonight Show job, he will need to appeal to the show’s middle-aged Middle America audience, while maintaining his viral fascination.  After all, the argument for Conan O’Brien to step down in 2010 so soon after beginning his tenure was that he had terminally narrow appeal, failing to please the older demographic.  Still, in just four years, our entire culture has become much more YouTube-centric, and perhaps Fallon’s internet-friendly strategy will be enough to keep him afloat.

 

Peter Pan Musical To Be Aired Live on TV

Peter PanIn the wake of the massive ratings success of NBC’s live production of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood, the network has tapped producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan to replicate their success with another live musical event later this year.

The next event will be the live broadcast of a production of the musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, which has lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Jule Styne and Moose Charlap. Originally produced on Broadway in 1954 with Mary Martin playing Peter Pan, this version features well-known songs like “I Won’t Grow Up” and “I’m Flying”.

“We hope to create the joy that has made this musical so beloved,” stated Meron and Zadon. “We would like a whole new generation to experience Peter Pan and for families across the country to share the magic.”

Casting has not yet been announced for NBC’s live airing of Peter Pan, but the broadcast is scheduled to air on December 4, 2014.

Seth Meyers Inherits Late Night From Jimmy Fallon In New York

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Jimmy Fallon has passed his late night show over to Seth Meyers from SNL fame. Jimmy has owned Late Night for the last five years after Conan O’Brien was booted because of terrible ratings. Subsequently, the NBC executives reinstalled Jay Leno back in The Tonight Show slot. Conan could have taken his Late Show slot back, but chose to go on to host his own show on TBS a year later (and was $12 million richer from the non-compete contract he had with NBC.)

With Jimmy Fallon now graduating to Jay Leno’s slot on The Tonight Show, there leaves a void to be filled on Late Night and Seth Meyers (from NBC’s SNL) gets the pickle passed to him. The new show with Meyers will still be in the after-midnight 12:35am TV show time slot – a slot that is very hard to garner TV audience, especially with so much TV and non-TV competition out there. Seth Meyers “new” version of the show will have a new format and will include some skits lifted straight from SNL, some on-the-street clips, as well as the standard format of the opening monologue and a bunch of interesting guests to boot.

It’s good that the NBC show is recorded at 5PM EST as Meyers is only a year younger than Fallon at the ripe old age of 40. Late Night has a history of burning out the host, who often doesn’t feel any pressure to attract a big audience, but can often feel that their show is going nowhere fast, leading to motivational issues for them and their staff. Graduating to a better time slot is almost unheard of: Conan underlined that, but Fallon managed to buck the trend, showing that it is possible.

The “Passing Of the Pickle” is a tradition created by David Letterman, who departed Light Night many years ago where the staff on the show bestowed a giant plastic pickle upon the fresh faced new host, Conan O’ Brien. Jimmy Fallon, too,  received the pickle from Conan O’Brien, but the tradition goes way back: a number of TV hosts over the years have exchanged the pickle including Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan, who received real pickles from Katz’s deli. The pickle is a metaphor for being passed a lame duck time slot.

Jimmy Fallon vacates the Late Night on February 6, 2014 to get ready for The Tonight Show debut and Seth Meyers starts the new show Late Night on February 24, 2014. No indication yet of what NBC executives expect to see in terms of success or failure, but with their history they may even forget that he is on their channel. With Seth Meyers experience on SNL and on the daytime yakker show Live with Kelly, this should stand him in better than his competition for this slot that reportedly included Alec Baldwin, George Lopez,W. Kamau Bell, Whitney Cummings, Gordon Elliot and Maury Povich, all veterans of the TV circuit.

NBC’s The Tonight Show Returns To New York With Jimmy Fallon At The Helm

Jimmy Fallon Brings the Tnight Show To New York City

Known for his madcap skits on SNL with Justin Timberlake and his youthful stand-up style, Jimmy Fallon has been tasked with bringing The Tonight Show back to New York City after a 50 year hiatus. The show has lived for over five decades in Los Angeles, with Jay Leno most recently at the helm.

It all started with the The Tonight Show with Steve Allen in New York back in 1954. Jack Paar took the show over a few years later and and then Johnny Carson moved the show from New York to Hollywood in 1962. It hasn’t been back to New York City since. Jay Leno and David Letterman had their famed “Late Night Wars” where they fought over the show (Johnny Carson wanted to give it to Letterman, but NBC execs decided otherwise) and now Jay Leno ends his tenure with his two-decade run on The Tonight Show February 6, 2014 with his final guests Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks. Just a few days later on February 17, Jimmy Fallon begins his version of The Tonight Show at midnight. (It’s been placed after NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics for that week, returning to a regular time slot of 11pm the following week).

Jimmy Fallon is lucky enough to have a great lead-in with the Olympics coverage and is anticipated to include some wonderful guests including Sean Connery, Ringo Starr, Madonna, Aaron Paul, and George Clooney. (It’s hoped that NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is better than it has been over the last few years, because this apparent benefit of lead-in ratings could well become a negative if NBC screws it up again. For example, showing events that took place over 24 hours ago, inexplicably cutting away from the highly anticipated Opening Ceremonies to a Ryan Seacrest interview instead, and so on and so forth.)

the tonight show starring Jimmy FallonAs for the void that that Jimmy Fallon leaves at his show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers takes Jimmy’s old slot and so begins yet another round of late show musical chairs. The very first time NBC executives tried to replace Leno was back in June 2009, and it was a complete disaster. They replaced Leno with Conan O’Brien – but with Conan’s lack of mainstream appeal and the NBC executives lack of stomach… (were these really the same  NBC executives that were responsible for green-lighting the sleeper-hit Seinfeld? they must have just gotten lucky) NBC gave it an early bath and landed Conan with a reported $12 Million settlement deal and his own a show on TBS a year later when his NBC non-compete contract expired.

This time around, NBC executives think they can do a better job and Jimmy Fallon gets a try at the brass ring. No word yet on what the backup plan is this time if Fallon fails to garner market share; perhaps Jay Leno is still under contract if Jimmy’s viewer numbers don’t pan out?

Tickets to The Tonight Show with host Jimmy Fallon, which is being shot at the NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, are available at the NBC ticket desk by calling (212) 664-3056. Generally, tickets are booked about 4-6 weeks in advance from the actual taping. Please call Monday-Friday (9am-5pm ET) for availability. Standby tickets are always fair game for these kinds of shows in New York City, but anticipate higher than normal demand at the start of the run, giving way to a reasonable ticket demand as the show settles in.

Newsies Still Packs Them In, a Year After Jeremy Jordan Departed

Newsies Broadway Musical

Newsies Broadway Musical

Encouraged by the New York newsboy strike of 1899, Disney’s cathartic production of Newsies the Musical first premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in the fall of 2011, quickly moving on to the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway in the spring of 2012.  Whether it is because the show has been running on Broadway for an extensive period of time or the show wrestles without an attention reeling name like Jeremy Jordan, this Disney musical has not been living up to its full potential this year, compared to the last. (Jeremy Jordan left Newsies on Sept 4 2012 to pursue his dream of TV fame in the musical drama TV series Smash which aired on NBC and ended its 2nd, and final, season on May 26, 2013)

When Newsies first opened on Broadway in the March of 2012, they were averaging 100.8% in ticket sales and were grossing an average of $937,788.92, in comparison to January of 2013. Up until now they have been averaging 95.6% in ticket sales and are grossing an average of $847,072.23, with a 97% of theatre seats sold on average every night.  Looking at this data, there was not a colossal loss, possibly because in the beginnings of this production, people were so anxious about this musical being an adaptation to the popular 1992 film, starring Christian Bale. Compared to the movie, the musical is much longer and more care and precision have been placed into it.

Recasting has always been a difficult task to execute and even though the show has fared critically in monetary terms, Jeremy Jordan’s replacement, Corey Cott, has been fairly up to par. The emotional build up for every number is not nearly as tantamount to what Jeremy set the standards for, but Corey manages to pull off an astounding performance with a voice similar to Jeremy’s, making up for many of the weak moments to the female lead’s, Kara Lindsay’s, singing. Albeit the humorous, witty journalistic jokes and snappy, energetic attitude, Kara lacks this sort of resilience and strength, for the most part; coming off seemingly reserved and as if she is holding herself back, teetering along the lines of the melody and not quite hitting all of her notes. (Maybe this is due to the exhausting eight-shows-a-week schedule.)

Aside from the exciting dance numbers and character developments, there is exceptional use of the limited space on stage. The construction of the set, along with the essence of New York, is captured quite perfectly. A gate at the top of each moving staircase so that they can connect or detach from each other exacerbates the excitement of the chase-run scenes. The backdrop is tastefully modern, displaying shifting scenery or showing words from a typewriter whenever Kara’s character speaks what she is so furiously typing. Any seat in the house could clearly see what was going on, although being in the front few aisles definitely opens up your eyes to the deliberate sweat dripping and spit flying everywhere.

Even though Disney’s target market is for families of all ages, female fans of the Christian Bale movie of the same name, the audience demographic at this show seems to skew to an older, more mature crowd who may find solace in this hopeful musical because of the very pertinent modern day financial and social struggles.

With tattered corduroys and newsboy cap wearing orphan boys selling newspapers, desperate to make a living out on the cutthroat streets of New York, Newsies pulls at the heartstrings, bringing to mind the toil of making a living on Broadway, or simply the everyday strife that everybody trudges through. With no foul language or anything particularly scandalous to worry about, overall, this show is quite uplifting, entertaining, and sublime for families.

Broadway Themed TV Show Smash Canceled

Smash TV ShowSmash, the NBC television drama that has been a frequent topic of discussion (and sometimes derision) among Broadway fans, will not return to the small screen next season. The final episode of the series will air on May 26.

Starring American Idol alum Katharine McPhee as a young performer pursuing her Broadway dream, Smash spent two seasons charting the creation and development of a Broadway-bound musical about Marilyn Monroe called Bombshell. The sometimes soapy, sometimes comic drama offered a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Broadway, spotlighting songwriters, directors, producers, and more.

Created and produced by playwright Theresa Rebeck (Dead Accounts), Rebeck was replaced with showrunner Joshua Safran (Gossip Girl) in the show’s second season, but ratings continued to fall. During its run, the cast of Smash boasted many Broadway regulars, including Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher), Jeremy Jordan (Newsies), and Megan Hilty (Wicked). Other series regulars included Anjelica Huston, Jack Davenport, and Debra Messing.

Broadway and TV Star Sean Hayes to Join Cast of Smash

Sean Hayes

It will be a Will & Grace reunion on NBC’s primetime Broadway soap Smash this coming season when Sean Hayes (who played Will & Grace‘s flamboyant scene-stealer Jack McFarland on the successful sitcom) joins the much-buzzed-about television show featuring Debra Messing (Grace herself) for a multi-episode arc.

Hayes, who recently impressed Broadway in the revival of Promises, Promises as office drone Chuck Baxter, will play a character not unlike himself, a comic television star who is making his Broadway debut.  Though unlike Hayes, who wisely chose a musical comedy to show off his Broadway chops, his Smash counterpart will be starring in a musical version of the seductive drama Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

It has been reported that Sean Hayes’ character, named Terrence Falls, will cause difficulty’s for Smash‘s talented-but-overshadowed Broadway trouper Ivy (Megan Hilty).  But it’s not yet known how much screen time he will share with his old TV castmate Debra Messing, who plays Broadway show scribe Julia.

Live Production of The Sound of Music to Air on NBC

Soon NBC will be alive with The Sound of Music, and it won’t just be an annual airing of the beloved 1965 film. The peacock network has announced plans to air a live broadcast of a new production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. Smash producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will produce the television event, which will feature actors singing live. Casting is expected to begin right away. The air date has not been determined yet.

Zadan and Meron have a history of bringing favorite musicals to television, having produced TV movies of Annie, Gypsy, The Music Man, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. But, unlike those movies, The Sound of Music will be a live broadcast. Of course NBC is not new to live broadcasting, with shows like Saturday Night Live and even 30 Rock doing the occasional live show. Back in the 1950s, broadcasting musicals live was done frequently on network television, and NBC hopes to bring back that spirit of spontaneity.

Fans of the film The Sound of Music, which stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, may be surprised to discover that there are several notable differences between the movie and the original Broadway stage version, which is likely the version that NBC will be producing. The stage musical features the songs “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It,” but does not include Maria’s song “I Have Confidence,” which was written specifically for the movie. In place of the film’s duet “Something Good,” the stage show has a song called “An Ordinary Couple”. Some of the other well-known movie songs are shifted to different scenes in the stage show.

More Broadway and Musical Theater Stars Join TV’s Smash

From the beginning, Smash, the NBC TV show about the creation of a Broadway musical, has employed many real-life Broadway stars. Christian Borle (a recent Tony Award winner for his role in Peter and the Starcatcher), Brian d’Arcy James (the man behind the big green costume in Broadway’s Shrek), Will Chase (Rent, Billy Elliot), and Meg Hilty (Wicked) are among the Broadway regulars that have populated the world of Smash, giving it a special air of authenticity for musical theater fans. The recent news that d’Arcy James and Chase won’t be series regular next year, though, made it seem that the show might be chipping away at the genuine Broadway babies.

Theater fans can relax — for now — though, since it appears that Smash is continuing its policy of hiring actual musical theater performers. One of the most recent cast additions in Jeremy Jordan, the break-out star of the 2011-2012 season for his roles in Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies. On Smash, Jordan is set to play a Brooklyn-born singer (perhaps borrowing some of the tough-guy, New York attitude that he is currently showing Broadway audiences in Newsies?).

And now there is news that Jennifer Hudson will be joining Smash. The former American Idol contestant wowed musical theater lovers in 2006 when she played Effie White in the film version of the Broadway hit Dreamgirls. Although Hudson has not actually starred in a Broadway production (her appearances on the Great White Way have been limited to a couple special benefit concerts), she will be playing a Broadway star named Veronica Moore in a multi-episode arc.

With any luck, Smash will be employing even more Broadway and musical theater talents in the future. Given that the TV show films in New York City, it creates the possibility for working Broadway performers to do both theater and television. Of course the extent to which they can do both may depend on how demanding their roles are and what the show’s shooting schedule is like. Jeremy Jordan, for instance, plans to continue playing his part in Newsies while also filming Smash. But Christian Borle, who has a starring role on Smash as a composer, will soon be departing Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher to begin filming.