The surprise success of CBS's Michael Jackson concert and ABC's Victoria's Secret special showed that TV audiences will still flock to big--or fleshy--TV events. Jeff Zucker, NBC's entertainment chief, talked to TIME about how TV is faring in the post-Sept. 11 world.
Q: Have viewing habits changed since Sept. 11?
A: People have gravitated to the familiar, comfortable and serious, and have had less patience for the frivolous. I think that's why the reality shows have suffered. Friends, ER, The West Wing and Law & Order are at all-time highs.
Q: How is The West Wing going to stay relevant?
A: People get their dose of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. every night on the nightly news, and actually are O.K. to get lost in a fictional drama.
Q: Some people say NBC's "quality" image has been muddied by shows you've introduced like Fear Factor and Weakest Link.
A: We have to broadcast 22 hours a week, and you can't afford, either creatively or financially, to do 22 hours of The West Wing. Am I worried that we sullied our reputation? No.
Q: Is Anne Robinson as mean to the celebrities on Weakest Link as she is to ordinary people?
A: Actually, we've changed Weakest Link a little bit. It's less of an edgy show, and it plays much more like a comedy because of the way we've dressed it up with celebrities and stunts. Now you see Anne laughing all the time and having fun.
Q: Would NBC ever run the Victoria's Secret special?
A: I'm all in favor of escapist television. I'm not sure we would escape that far.