That was the sound of broadcast network television getting run over, twice, by FX’s biker drama, Sons of Anarchy, Tuesday night. For the first time, SoA defeated both NBC’s Jay Leno Show and ABC’s The Forgotten in the 18 to 49 ratings, which, as network programmers will tell you incessantly, is the only rating that matters when it comes to advertising money.
Since all 10 p.m. programming this year must be viewed within the prism of the Great Leno Experiment, what does this mean for Jay?
A mixed bag:
* On the one hand, it certainly would not look good for NBC to get beaten by basic cable on a regular basis. In the traditional ratings sense, Jay is getting his chin handed to him.
* On the other hand, Jay has company: The Forgotten, an original scripted drama of the kind Jay is replacing, lost out to SoA too. Which raises the valid but unprovable argument that a new NBC drama in the time slot would be getting beat too, but paying much more to do it. (As bad as Jay is doing, some nights he comes close to or beats ABC originals like Eastwick, whereas even NBC only hoped he could take second against reruns.)
* Bottom line: I’ve argued before that the premise behind the Leno show is that network TV is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from large-basic-cable-channel TV. From the vantage point of Leno and The Forgotten—splayed out on the highway with tire tracks across their back, it’s sure looking like that.