The Live Feed has a rundown on some of Jeff Zucker’s most famous blunders since taking over the reigns at NBC. It’s amazing he lasted as long as he did.
- 2003/2004: “Coupling” and “Joey.” Every network launches bad sitcoms, but the launch of these two low-brow and tone-deaf shows became synonymous with NBC’s inability to replace such classics as “Friends” and “Seinfeld” on Thursday. “The network [messed] it up because they intervened endlessly,” “Coupling” writer Steven Moffat famously complained. “If you really want a [show] to work, don’t get Jeff Zucker’s team to come help you because they’re not funny.” NBC’s average primetime rating among adults 18-49: 4.5
- 2004: Moving “Apprentice” to Thursdays. Donald Trump’s reality hit initially boosted NBC’s ratings on the increasingly troubled night, but putting a reality show into the network’s premium scripted block offended the creative community and wasn’t a long-term solution for the network’s comedy problems. NBC’s average rating: 3.5
- 2006: Zucker lays off 700 employees and labels the downsizing “NBC 2.0.” The move was the start of a slew of cost-cutting attempts by the executive to reinvent television, including replacing the network’s traditional upfront presentation to advertisers with a walk-through exhibit in the network’s New York City gift shop. NBC’s average rating: 3.1
- 2007: Zucker fired Kevin Reilly as entertainment president (who later went on to boost Fox with “Glee”) and brought aboard Ben Silverman to serve in an overstuffed co-chairman position. Though a successful producer, Silverman flamed out as a network executive, making headlines for partying and dissing competitors while launching gaudy retro-fare such as “Knight Rider” and “American Gladiators.” Silverman also gave birth to the famous Zuckerian mission statement: “We’re managing for margins, not for ratings.” NBC’s average rating: 2.8
- 2008: During the writers strike, Zucker further alienated the creative community by casting himself in a bizarre on-air segment that aired before “My Name Is Earl.” The piece was supposed to catch up viewers on show’s story, but Zucker (who referred to himself as “JZ”) took the opportunity to knock the show’s writers. “Writers refer to that as a ‘call back,’ ” he said after showing a clip of a repeated gag. “I call it, ‘Getting paid twice to write the same thing.’” NBC’s average rating: 2.8
- 2009: “The Jay Leno Show.” Right when Zucker most needed to display some creative brilliance to continue leading NBC in the face of a Comcast merger, he orchestrated an extraordinary public face plant. Nuking NBC’s 10 p.m. hour assured a primetime ratings collapse, while his late-night “Sophie’s Choice” lost Conan O’Brien to TBS, turned Leno into a villain and made bashing the network an Internet pastime. NBC’s average rating: 2.7
- 2010: New era? On the day Zucker announces he’s leaving the company, CBS enjoys a ratings victory after launching a rival comedy block on Thursday.
I really hope Comcast can turn NBC around and make it the network it once was, especially if the rumors are true and they come up with a sports network to rival ESPN.