Seriously, What the Hell Is Going on at NBC?

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but somebody just got fired from NBC News in a fashion spectacular enough to make news.
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Stop me if you've heard this one before, but somebody just got fired from NBC News in a fashion spectacular enough to make news.
Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 12.51.29 PM

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but somebody just got fired from NBC News in a fashion spectacular enough to make news. In addition to that, two prominent co-hosts on the Today show were reportedly fired while not actually being fired, which led NBC to have to make a public statement assuring everyone that nothing of the sort had happened and everyone still had a job (aside from the one guy who really did get fired).

So, the president of NBC News made two announcements, one after the other, making it clear who had been canned -- and why -- and who still had a job at the network (for now). At any other television network on this planet, this would be considered unusual to outright impossible. At NBC, it's just Wednesday.

Seriously, what the hell is going on at NBC, particularly NBC News? Think of how often you hear about insider melodrama at CBS, or ABC, or Fox -- then compare that against the number of times in just the past couple of months NBC's internal strife has gone external. NBC is the best soap opera on television. It doesn't air the best soap opera -- it is the best soap opera.

In the latest episode of All My Children Who Somehow Run a Television Network, NBC News president and apparent agent of chaos Deborah Turness fired newly minted Today show "Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Today brand" Jamie Horowitz after only ten weeks on the job. The reason for this, according to the New York Times's morning TV savant Bill Carter, is that Horowitz clashed with Turness and other executives by doing exactly what he claims he was hired to do: revamp the Today show, taking no prisoners and holding no sacred cows in the process. Today has faced an uphill battle in the ratings against ABC's GMA since 2012, when it lost the title of #1 morning show, which it had held for 16 years.

What's especially entertaining is that NBC News execs had reportedly pushed hard to poach Horowitz from ESPN, even going so far as to engineer a trade-off with an MSNBC producer that would allow Horowitz out of his contract early. With that in mind, his dismissal before anyone could even get his business cards printed was characterized by one NBC suit as "massively embarrassing" (a phrase which has to be saved as a macro in the keyboards of Bill Carter's NBC sources by this point). Turness, though, says that Horowitz simply wasn't "the right fit" for the job, which means NBC will now have to negotiate a way out of Horowitz's three-year, $3.3 million contract. I swear, there are more people at NBC being paid a fortune not to work than there are full-time, working employees at most other networks. My goal in life has now been updated to getting a management job at NBC News and then quickly being fired so that I can make millions sitting on my ass playing next-gen GTA V.

But Jamie Horowitz is only half the story. The other half involves Turness having to deny reports that NBC News was unloading Natalie Morales and Willie Geist from Today. That news item likely started to make the rounds because embedded within the Horowitz story was a claim that he wanted to get rid of at least one of them. It wouldn't be surprising if Willie Geist eventually jumped ship and headed over to CBS This Morning -- which is currently the subject of speculation -- given that he's an ex-Morning Joe host and the former executive producer of that show, Chris Licht, is now the EP of CBS's morning show. But it's hard to imagine Natalie Morales going anywhere just yet. Well, it would be hard to imagine if this wasn't NBC we were talking about -- and if NBC wasn't seemingly run by angry hamsters.

Seriously, just a few months ago you had David Gregory being fired from Meet the Pressin a way that was so undignified and unceremonious that even those who didn't particularly like him felt like he'd gotten fucked over. Before that came rumors of Matt Lauer's impending exit that had to be quashed at every turn, all of it stemming from how badly NBC handled the firing of Ann Curry from Today. Then, of course, there was the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien debacle. The reason media watchers are so attuned to expecting gossip-worthy machinations from NBC is that there always seem to be gossip-worthy machinations going on at NBC.

It's like fucking Westeros over there, with the regency of Casterly 30 Rock constantly having to reassure its people that they're not about to take an axe blade to the back of the neck. What it's not -- or at least what it seems like it's not these days -- is a professionally run television network.