I've been pondering this Leno thing quite a bit the last day.
On the one hand, it's clearly more palatable than NBC's other options. On the the other hand, it's a move clearly born of desperation and, as others have noted, it signals NBC is essentially giving up on the 9 p.m. hour.
Also, given that programming heads roll about once a year at the networks, even if this move pays off in the short term, Ben Silverman will be out at NBC within another year or two - at most. Then there'll be a new sheriff in town, and he or she will be looking at that 9 o'clock hour (in Mountain, anyway) and thinking, "I'd really like to take a shot at 'CSI.'"
Then what happens to Leno? Sure, he's only going to work, what, another decade at most, but the primetime landscape is going to shift half a dozen times in that decade. Primetime is fluid, late night is semi-permanent. So, even if Leno's show is moderately successful, it's unlikely to be long-lasting in its current form. And, if that happens, we'll be right back to where we were last week - with Leno feeling unappreciated and looking for a sweet gig at a competing network.
Finally, anyone catch Brian Williams' interview with Leno? Jay could hardly have seemed less pleased about the whole thing. Maybe Silverman has incriminating pictures of him. Maybe the rumors about the ABC deal were much exaggerated.
I dunno. But if a major network (does NBC still qualify?) gives you five hours of primetime a week to play with and a ridiculous salary, you think you'd be able to at least fake a little excitement, right?