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TCA press tour: Show runners blast NBC, Leno

August 7, 2009 |  1:28 pm

NBC may be high on its decision to program its weeknight 10 p.m time period with Jay Leno's new talk/comedy show, but several acclaimed show runners declared today that the network should be ashamed for abandoning its tradition of producing quality adult drama for that time slot.

"They should take down the American flag from in front of the NBC building and put up a white one," Peter Tolan, co-creator of  "Rescue Me," said during an FX-sponsored panel exploring the state of drama on television. Tolan said NBC, which used to symbolize "elegance and creative spirit," was conceding, "We give up. We can't find anything that will stick."

Shawn Ryan, creator of FX's "The Shield," who is currently runnnig Fox's "Lie to Me," said the programming of Leno "feels offensive" to him and to several other writers who were inspired at a young age by NBC dramas such as "Hill Street Blues." "There's a generation of writers who grew up on those shows," he said, "NBC used to stand for something better."

He added that, although NBC's decision was based on economics and the rising cost of producing dramas, "what value does that show have after it's aired?" Unlike episodes of scripted dramas, the Leno shows could not be sold overseas, and the topical humor would no longer be relevant after a few weeks. However, a drama such as "Heroes" can be sold overseas and also have a financial afterlife on DVD.

Todd A. Kessler, co-creator and executive producer of "Damages," said NBC was not looking forward by providing a promotional platform in which to grow other series, particularly dramas. "They're not building for the future of the network." Kurt Sutter, creator of the motorcycle drama "Sons of Anarchy," said the declining real estate for dramas "put a lot of creative people out of work."

Also, many of the panelists continued to criticize the decision by producers of the Emmy Awards to truncate the televised ceremony and eliminate several catergoies in order to spotlight more popular shows. Some cable networks and the Writers Guild have complained, saying that their members were being disrespected.

Ryan said he thought "the Emmys was supposed to be about honoring the best in television" and that writers were being shoved aside "to make room for one more plug for 'The Mentalist.' "

Tolan quipped that he hoped the elimination of the categories would make way for "a killer opening number."

— Greg Braxton

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