You've got to feel for NBC TV's newish chairman Jeff Gaspin; not only does he take the wheel amid the Mother of All Media Typhoons, but he inherits it from a Captain hell bent on steering directly into an iceberg.
Taking over Ben Silverman's suicidal command structure, Gaspin has years of interviews ahead of him in which he pleads with the public to believe that, no, we really don't want to die, even as he attempts to pilot his way through a debris field of leftover decisions which continue to suggest that's exactly what NBC wants to do.
In an interview with The Wrap, Gaspin was forced to plead that, yes, NBC really does want good ratings; no, bad ratings are not our goal. As amazing as it may sound that a network chief would need to clarify such things, his predecessor actually made a point of publicly declaring that he was "managing for margin, not for ratings", i.e. keeping costs low was more important than keeping ratings high.
Citing development deals with JJ Abrams and Jerry Bruckheimer he said in the interview, while denying that the recent cancellation of Southland meant that NBC was getting out of the drama business:
"I have been going around town and talking to agencies and talking to producers and trying to make myself visible to say that, while we think we need to produce economically, the goal is not to manage for margins," Gaspin told TheWrap. "It is to put the best possible programs we can on the air."
And while NBC's overall programming budget may have shrunk, "Our development dollars have not changed one bit from five years ago, even though we have many less hours to develop for," Gaspin said. "Our goal is to produce good shows that get whatever's considered good ratings today."
But while the new corporate strategy may be to actually attract viewers, the network is still saddled with an hour of programming every night which threatens to turn their ratings profile into something that Lifetime and Current would flee like a vampire from a crucifix.
In the latest round of stats, NBC's avant-garde experiment, The Jay Leno Show has fallen behind cable programming in viewership among the all important 18 - 49 year old demographic. As Movieline points out, on this Tuesday night Leno was murdered in the demo by FX's Son's of Anarchy, which drew a 2.0 rating to Leno's brutal 1.8.
As long as you are sitting on that little toxic waste dump, maybe saying that you're trying for low ratings isn't such a bad idea after all?