Some of the top drama showrunners in TV took aim at NBC Friday, dissing the network for its decision to replace five hours of scripted programming with "The Jay Leno Show."
"I feel like they should take down the American flag from in front of the building and put up a white flag," said Peter Tolan, executive producer of "Rescue Me." "It’s like they decided they said, ‘We can’t find traction with anything, so we quit’."
Tolan made his remarks on a panel of FX drama showrunners held at the network’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. The producers said the negative reaction to NBC’s 10 p.m. moves are in part sorrow over the network’s creative transformation in recent years.
"The reason you’re hearing a visceral backlash is specific to NBC," said "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan. "You have a generation of writers than grew up on their shows. It inspired them to write. That network used to stand for something better.
Kurt Sutter, creator of FX’s "Sons of Anarchy," added that right now, NBC executives "are the bastards to hate." And Graham Yost, who produced the critically-hailed "Boomtown" for NBC, said the loss of writer jobs "is heartbreaking."
Tolan added that no matter how good Leno’s show is, it wouldn’t compare to some of the grand dramas NBC has programmed at 10 p.m. over the years.
"There was an elegance of work that NBC was known for," he said. "And I don’t think this will approach it. You can’t stack (Leno) against ‘Hill Street Blues’."
When one reported noted that Leno’s show is keeping a lot of comedy writers employed, the panelist didn’t have much sympathy.
"Our (drama) brothers are suffering from that one decision," Tolan said, referring to NBC’s killing of its 10 p.m. dramas.
Tolan also took a personal swipe at Leno.
"Jay’s careful to say anything positive about writers after what he did during the strike," Tolan snarked, apparently referring to Leno’s decision to continue writing his monologue during the work stoppage.
The scribes also sounded off on the TV Academy’s plans to "time-shift" a few categories, with Ryan particularly offended by the idea.
"Is timeshift another word for censor?" Ryan asked. "It’s an awful idea. I thought the Emmys were about rewarding (the best in TV). When they start talking about honoring more shows, then isn’t it the People’s Choice Awards?"