I have a feeling that blasting NBC's plan to hand Jay Leno five primetime hours per week starting next season will be a favorite pastime at this January's Television Critics Association press tour. 

I didn't expect, though, that the first person doing the blasting would be one of NBC's own stars, an actor on a show that's actually likely to survive NBC's inevitable purge of scripted programming.

Then again, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" co-star Richard Belzer has never much cared what toes he steps on, nor had much interest in kowtowing to authority, particularly in the form of Ben Silverman and Jeff Zucker. 

Belzer was on the stage Wednesday (Jan. 7) talking about his appearance on a PBS' "George Carlin: The Mark Twain Prize" tribute/special, which will air on Feb. 4.

Asked about the fate of "SVU," he started slowly.

"Fortunately 'Special Victims Unit' is the only hit dramatic series left on the big peacock," he said. "So I'm not worried, frankly. We're very lucky to be starting our 10th year. We'll be moving to 9 o'clock, obviously."

Then Belzer picked up steam.

"Jay Leno is, of course, going to be on every night, meaning thousands of people will be out of work, actors, producers, writers, wardrobe people," He added, building. "It may be good for comedy in limited way, but it's a terrible, terrible trend for network television to take five hours of primetime... I'm not denigrating Jay or the show. I just think it's a network that is desperate."

He cackled, "I'm already signed..." 

And continued, "It's the last gasp of a dying network that could turn out to be brilliant in terms financially, but in terms of actors and writers and producers, I think it's a tragedy."

Stay tuned for more NBC blasting in the nine days to come.

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