All The Eggs In One Basket

When Jay Leno cancelled a taping earlier this week because of an illness, it got me thinking.

What if it had been something really serious?

NBC is putting all of its eggs in one Leno-shaped basket next year by giving him the timeslot five nights a week at 10 p.m. As a result, the network is not developing new ones and may not bring back some of the shows currently on the bubble, because that's five less hours of original programming it has to develop.

With NBC set to announce its renewals on Monday, the timing couldn't have been worse for NBC. Fortunately for Leno, whatever ailment he had doesn't seem to be serious.

But Leno turned 59 on Tuesday, and while that's not old age, he's not young either. One wonders what the network would do once Leno contemplates retirement.

The fact remains that abandoning five hours of programming is a stupid strategy on NBC's part. That's not a shot at Leno -- his numbers are the best among the late-night network hosts, but they don't come near what a prime-time show generates. NBC is hoping to make the money up on the back end by saving money not producing a more-expensive drama.

Still, I had to think Leno's trip to the hospital this week put a scare into the NBC suits, and none of it had to do with concern for Leno's welfare.

'LOST' THOUGHT: Since there are people who may not have seen it yet, I won't post any spoilers. I will, however, note that a physicist should know that energy can't be created or destroyed, merely transferred.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: After several weeks of hiatus, "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is back a week earlier than it was supposed to be because "In The Motherhood" and "Samantha Who?" failed to generate better numbers. "Betty" has already gotten its renewal, so it's safe for another season even though the ratings continue to drop. It's followed by new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice."

CBS has new episodes of "Survivor," "CSI" and "Harper's Island." Booth's brother pays a visit on "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.), followed by "Hell's Kitchen."

One of NBC's shows that is on the bubble has to be "Southland" at 10 p.m., which is generating solid ratings, though not what "ER" did in the same timeslot. With only 10 hours to deal with Monday-Friday next fall, will "Southland" grab one of those spots? It follows new episodes of NBC's sitcom lineup; my guess is that only "The Office" and "30 Rock" will carry over into next year among those shows.

Clark and Davis finally throw down on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.), while the Winchester bros meet Castiel's human host on "Supernatural."