NBC’s big Leno gamble isn’t a huge risk

In about an hour, the next step in Jay Leno’s career begins with his new series. Every weeknight at 10 p.m. viewers will get a dose of Leno — if they’re tuned to NBC. Chances are viewers will be tuned to another channel or doing something else entirely.

Clearly there’s been a lot of talk about whether “The Jay Leno Show” reflects the changing reality of television or if it will crash and burn. Newsweek’s Pop Vox blog has some insight and how results might end up being mixed.

While I lament the loss of potentially five hours of scripted television, I never really thought that NBC was taking that huge of a risk by airing Leno five nights a week. As others have helpfully pointed out, producing Leno’s show is likely a lot cheaper than filming an hour-long drama. The downside is that these cheaper shows may not have the same rating draw as a drama.

Also, the “Jay Leno Show” isn’t necessarily a revolutionary move on NBC’s part. After all, it was nearly 20 years ago when NBC and the other networks used cheaply produced newsmagazines to plug in gaps in their schedules.

I don’t think NBC ever aired “Dateline NBC” five nights a week on a consistent basis, but it certainly felt like it on some weeks.

We’ve seen networks try to save money amid increasing competition with regularly scheduled and cheap newsmagazines. This is just another link in the chain.

‘Glee’ success depends on how it’s sweetened

As “Glee” starts its first season tonight on FOX, I think a lot of the show’s success depends on how this fun show is developed.

The show’s creators have thrown in a lot of cane sugar — I enjoyed the story about high school students and their teacher working to revive a show choir. There’s something sincere about the effort to succeed in a harmless endeavor even if it isn’t popular or well regarded by other students.

On the other hand, the “Glee” chefs have also stirred in a ton of artificial corn syrup — including really blatant fake singing that detracts from the show’s impact. I’m not talking about normal dubbing, which I think happened in some of the songs from the pilot. I’m talking about fake singing on the scale of the “Nick & Jessica’s Family Christmas” special featuring Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

The show choir’s big number in the pilot — a performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” — sounded overdubbed and had way too many voices for what is supposed to be a group of six singers. The vocals from the male lead sounded like they were lightly processed by an auto-tuner. That definitely detracts from a character who is supposed to have great talent.

Plus, the backing music supposedly from a jazz band sounded like a synthesizer from the 1980s. As a former band-o, this is unforgivable.

Far better critics than I (like Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune) have noted how “Glee” is trying to strike a balance between sincerity and irony.

As the show gets launched tonight, I think that it will need to balance a lot of things. Yes, sincerity and irony but also providing a semi-real slice of high school while providing enough entertainment to keep viewers tuned in.

I hope they find their sweet spot because this is a show that I could be interested in.

Get ready for 09-09-09

Remember how people made a huge deal out of 07-07-07? And then, a year, a month and a day later, when 08-08-08 was a hullabaloo?
Today is the next day in the sequence, and I wonder if people will mark the day for any particular reason.
Since the millennium started, I’ve been getting e-mails to mark days like 01/02/03. I was also forewarned about problems on 06/06/06, although nothing much happened.
That fateful date in 2006 was the first time I recall that we marked the repeating single-digit phenomenon. I don’t recall a lot of people marking 05/05/05. Who would celebrate it, aside from someone who plays slots too much?
Apparently, some people are marking 09/09/09. Depending on who you ask, the number 9 is either lucky and evil.
While no one is saying it, I think 09/09/09 is an evil date. After all, “999” is just “666” turned upside down. On the other hand, maybe upending that number might negate its effects.
Although this type of numerology can be fun, it’s a little silly to me. It’s possible some external factors in play, I believe we assign our own beliefs and myths to the greater world.

The disharmony of Feng Shui wasabi peanuts

Feng Shui-brand wasabi peanutsAlternative title: Consumer Culture Confusion

I was browsing the snack section at a 7-Eleven in Colorado Springs when my eyes fell upon a product called Feng Shui wasabi peanuts.

There’s something a little … off about this product, and it took me a second to realize what it was. I asked my Twitter and Facebook friends if they knew what was wrong, but didn’t get any responses.

The problem I have with this product is that feng shui and wasabi come from two distinct cultures. Feng shui is an aesthetics system originally developed by the Chinese while wasabi is a traditional condiment of Japanese cuisine (often seen as the hot green paste served with sushi).

I’m trying to think of other products that have so marred the lines between different cultures, like Euclidean crepes or Kaiser’s Own Bangers and Mash.

I suppose Feng Shui wasabi peanuts could be an intentional blending of Japanese and Chinese elements. I was talking with a colleague last week about fusions of food and other aspects of diverse cultures.

On the other hand, this could be a product of pure laziness or lame branding where the product’s creators at the American Roland Food Corp. just threw some names up on the wall and decided the name feng shui sounded all right next to a product about wasabi-flavored peanuts.

Apparently Roland thought highly enough of feng shui to slap the name on all of its Asian food products, including rice crackers and wasabi peas. The rice cracker products include strong Japanese references to nori (Japanese seaweed), Maki rolls (a type of sushi) and wasabi.

I passed on buying the peanuts so I have no idea if the combination of wasabi and peanuts (and “Rice Flour, Sugar, Salt, Wheat Flour, Palm Oil, Corn
Starch, Salt”) are “a perfect balance” as the bag touts.

I’m also curious what actual feng shui practitioners might think about the product and its packaging. Does a product touting feng shui actually follow its tenets?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Photo: The aforementioned Feng Shui-brand wasabi peanuts at a 7-Eleven on Academy Boulevard in Colorado Springs.