Let’s be honest. I don’t imagine anyone really thought that "golden girl" from Fox News, Megyn Kelly, would work on NBC. I mean, why break up a successful "Today" show block with someone who a) does not possess the warm and fuzzy ingredient needed to succeed on this morning franchise; and b) is already known as a potential bigot? Umm…didn’t Kelly once claim Santa Claus is white? And didn’t she already fail hosting a Fox primetime special, which should have proved that the masses are not interested in her?
More importantly, if it "ain’t broke, why "fix it?"
Of course, Megyn Kelly on NBC is just one of many colossal programming misjudgments we have seen over the years by one of the networks. So, this week let me tackle some of TV’s biggest blunders for a walk down this unbelievable memory lane.
The eight I have chosen are not listed in any particular order, so it is up to you to decide which is the worst. It won’t be easy to choose!
Deborah Norville Replaces Jane Pauley on NBC’s "Today"
Something was happening on the "Today" show back in 1989 that NBC was not all too pleased about. Beloved host Jane Pauley was just one year shy of turning the Big 40. So, the network unceremoniously dumped her for someone eight years younger, Deborah Norville. To the audience (predominantly female, no doubt), it appeared that Pauley was being ousted for a younger, sexier and blonder woman. And the result was a mass audience defection.
Norville, who rebounded as host of syndicated "Inside Edition," was ultimately replaced by that proverbial "girl next door," Katie Couric. And that leads us to CBS for the next fiasco.
Katie Couric is Named Anchor of the "CBS Evening News"
Here’s an idea. Let’s try to bring younger viewers into the established "CBS Evening News" franchise with the addition of Katie Couric. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with giving a female the job. Diane Sawyer, after all, successfully sat in the"ABC World News" anchor chair from 1999 to 2004. But Couric in the more steely evening landscape was no fit, particularly in a more lifestyle-themed format not familiar to the older male demographic. And this "ray of morning Couric sunshine" on a new network and in a new daypart kept the newscast buried in third while she was aboard.
Time to Dump Ann Curry on "Today"
In a "thumbs up" to likable Savannah Guthrie, she did manage to survive the latest NBC "Today" show misstep. But, if NBC thought Jane Pauley at 39 was old way back when, imagine how they felt about another beloved anchor, Ann Curry, who received her unnecessary walking papers in 2012 at the ripe "old age" of 58. Rumor had it that Matt Lauer was behind the move and we all know what happened to him. Karma…it is always a bitch!
Jay Leno Exit Exits "The Tonight Show," Conan O’Brien Inherits His Chair, and Leno Almost Destroys the Primetime 10 p.m. Hour
Considering the earlier damages in the morning daypart, you might have assumed NBC would leave well enough alone in late night. Jay Leno, after all, was a success, Conan O’Brien had a core audience immediately following his "Tonight Show," and the network was No. 1 in the prosperous late fringe arena. But NBC needed to fix primetime, particularly the 10 p.m. hour leading into the affiliate late local newscasts. So, it moved Leno into the Monday to Friday 10 p.m. hour in the fall of 2009 as a "Tonight Show" of sorts in primetime (which was a far cheaper option than scripted programming). And it gave Conan O’Brien the job, who is not mass appeal in nature, to hold down the "Tonight Show" fort.
After initial significant sampling for "The Jay Leno Show," the audience fled in droves. Conan one hour earlier sent much of the "Tonight Show" audience packing as well. And by January 2010, NBC reached a reported $45 million settlement to end Conan’s contact. "The Jay Leno Show" concluded in early February 2010, and, effective on March 1, he was back in late night with his "tail between his legs."
ABC Reshuffles the Established Primetime Deck Chairs
Once upon a time, ABC had the winning idea to spin-off Robin Williams into sitcom "Mork & Mindy" after his guest spot on "Happy Days." The season was 1978 to 1979, which also featured "Laverne & Shirley" out of parent "Happy Days" and the original "Fantasy Island" out of equally goofy "The Love Boat." "Mork & Mindy" was an immediate sensation, tying "Happy Days" for No. 3 overall that season, "Laverne & Shirley" topped the charts, and "Fantasy Island" was the perfect escape on Saturday. All was well.
Flash to fall 1979 and too ambitious ABC decided to move all three series onto new nights, with now sophomore "Mork & Mindy," in particular, facing beloved Carroll O’Connor on "Archie Bunker’s Place" on Sunday. Each series, as a result, lost considerable steam, and each moved back to their established time periods by midseason. It was too little too late, and they were never the same again. The moral of this scenario: leave well enough alone.
NBC Cancels "Baywatch" and "JAG" After One Season
Disappointed, no doubt, by their season one performances, NBC opted against second seasons of beach drama "Baywatch" and military-themed drama "JAG." "Baywatch" got a reprieve in first-run syndication, where it aired for 10 additional seasons (ultimately changing its title to "Baywatch Hawaii" for the final two season). And "JAG" was rescued by CBS for an additional nine seasons beginning in January 1997. "JAG" then spun-off "Navy NCIS" (now simply called "NCIS") and that series is now in season 16. On, and did I mention it spun-off "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "NCIS: New Orleans"?
ABC Passes on "The Cosby Show"
Yes, we all know where Bill Cosby is now. But, well before his conviction for three counts of sexual assault, he was a well-known comedian and sitcom star ready for his next venture…"The Cosby Show." ABC, which had first dibs, did not see a sitcom focused on an African American family of value. It’s priority at the time was an over the top drama like "Dynasty." And NBC’s wise decision to step in resulted in a mammoth success and the beginning of its now classic "Must See TV" Thursday night line-up.
ABC Also Turns Down "All in the Family"
Years before "The Cosby Show," a pilot was developed for ABC called "Justice for All," featuring a middle-class family complete with a bigot named Archie Bunker. After screening the first pilot, ABC gave the producers more money to shoot a second pilot, titled "Those Were the Days." But the network ultimately balked at the potential controversy and CBS, eager to broaden its comedy focus outside of its rural fare (including "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Mayberry R.F.D.") stepped up to the plate.
The result: A sitcom called "All in the Family" that topped the rating charts for five consecutive years, spun-off five comedies (including "Maude" and "The Jeffersons"), and changed the course of TV comedy history. Note to ABC: Go stifle yourself!