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Late Night TV Smackdown

Neena Louise

I'm not much of a late-night talk show watcher, but I'm most intrigued by the brouhaha caused by the failure of Jay Leno's 10 pm talk show. It's been a long time since there's been such a ruckus over a show and NBC is not handling it well as it tries to save face. As this is written, nothing has been confirmed, but the rumor is that Jay Leno will retake The Tonight Show and Conan O'Brien will be unceremoniously tossed out. Though I am a fan of neither, this is just so wrong on so many levels.

Was there anyone besides NBC and Jay Leno that didn't see this coming? Who in their right mind thought that a 10 pm talk show would be a hit? I doubt even the great Johnny Carson could've pulled that one off (and, sorry Jay, but you ain't no Johnny). Leno has been whining that he was "only" given 4 months to find an audience. With the ratings he was pulling in, he was lucky to get that. Most shows with his abysmal numbers would've been yanked long before.

Most people (myself included) are outraged that Leno can now just slide into his old job like nothing happened. Stars of cancelled shows don't generally get to dictate where they're going next. When it comes at the expense of someone else (ie: O'Brien), it's abhorrent. Leno gave his show up. If his new venture was a failure, well, too bad. Admit it was a failure, lick your wounds and find something else to do. I wonder how Leno would have felt if Johnny Carson had decided he wanted The Tonight Show back 4 months after retiring? NBC would've undoubtedly given it to him, thus tossing Leno out. Would Leno have been ok with that? I doubt it very much.

It's all about money, of course. NBC is shelling out gazillions to Leno - show or not - so they naturally want to get something out of him. It's backfiring in a big way. Everyone's blaming Jay Leno and making him out to be the villain (myself included), but once analyzed, it's really NBC's fault and no one else's. They're the ones that offered the contracts. They're the ones that scheduled a show at 10 pm. They didn't have to do either, but were blinded by their greed and the dollar signs they saw when thought Leno would pull in huge ratings in primetime, hopefully pulling NBC out of last place in the process. Fools. And who is suffering for their idiocy? Many - including themselves. Leno's left with a battered reputation; O'Brien will be out of a job; viewers are so enraged, I doubt they'll watch. No one wins, here.

What will become of
The Tonight Show now? If Jay Leno returns, it's extremely unlikely he'll be able to recoup his ratings, considering how many people are angry with him. I suspect The Tonight Show will take a massive hit and David Letterman will emerge on top. That would actually be pretty funny, since Letterman still seems a little miffed he wasn't offered The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson retired back in 1992.


Revenge is sweet, innit?



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