Commentary

NBC Programming Remedy: Hire a Production Doctor

NBC is taking no chances for this upcoming season; it's ready to shift gears at a moment's notice with an unusual hire.

NBC Universal TV Group has hired its first-ever executive producer at large, more or less. Longtime sports and live event producer Michael Weisman will have the title of executive producer of the NBC Universal TV Group and will report to Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal TV Group.

Zucker described him as a troubleshooter. His first assignment is "The Today Show," which has made somewhat of a comeback after "Good Morning America" had been nipping at its heels a couple of months ago. Jim Bell is the show's new executive producer and is credited with putting some viewer distance between "The Today Show" and "GMA."

There is a lot to do at NBC Universal -- including some programming work to fix at MSNBC. Weisman has cautioned not to be surprised if he shows up also for CNBC, or in NBC's syndication division again. This past season, Zucker brought back Weisman to executive produce NBC-syndication talker "The Jane Pauley Show," which due to poor ratings won't return next season.

Too bad Weisman won't be able to help Zucker resuscitate NBC scripted primetime programming -- though that would be, technically, Weisman's responsibility as well, says Zucker. Changes to scripted programming take somewhat longer to fix given production schedules and the development process.

Perhaps this is the way new broadcasting networks will need to work in the future to stay competitive: Turning a show around on a dime with some fast tweaking of news and live programming by an executive producer that can pull rank on other producers. Maybe NBC will hire a scripted executive producer guru to do the same at-large work.

Still, you have to wonder how producers will feel having someone looking over their shoulders. Does that bring on a good creative process? Hard to believe. Then again, when you have fallen so fast, a network such as NBC really has no choice but to take some drastic measures.

Quick fixes on networks these days usually come from short-series reality shows, which are used to fill a time period hole for a network or spike a schedule during sweep periods. When the season comes in full swing, NBC will need all the help it can get, when and if some of its shows fall further. NBC deserves some credit in hiring a doctor to give quick ailing projects a little emergency medical service.

The ER waiting room is already full.

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