Oh NBC, you think you have the biggest pair of brass balls don’t you? You keep Heroes on the air, you tried to bring Trauma (to out-Bruckheimer CBS) and Mercy (to out-vagina ABC) into the medical drama fold, and now you’ve managed to become more ungrateful than the Fox network (which is no easy feat) by pulling one of the stupidest stunts since Kirk Cameron’s Circus of Jesus. You’re fucking up your late night line up, just so Jay Leno can stay on the air.
Last year, when The Jay Leno Show was announced, I wasn’t the only person who had a bad feeling. I’m also not the only person who’s bitching about Jay Leno being kowtowed to by the NBC suits either. (I point you all to Chez Pazienza’s Deus Ex Malcontent for some prime examples of well thought, well researched criticism on the matter. He’s worked in the network business so for cutting insight mixed in with your snark, he’s the guy to go to in this matter. I’m afraid I’ll just be bringing the snark this time.)
When first brought onto The Tonight Show, Jay Leno was at the top of his game. The sad thing is that he never excelled past that point throughout the rest of his career. It’s not that I hate Jay Leno, on the contrary. For a middle of the road non-offensive comedian, he beats the pants of off most “clean comedy” shows out there. He gets to be a little ribald, and he definitely bites the hand that feeds, but he’s still very safe. (One thing I will give him though is Jaywalking. I love that segment to death, as it only proves my point that we’re just two decades away from Luke Wilson saving our asses with water and robots to dig us out of our filth.) In short, he’s everything NBC would have wanted from a host of The Tonight Show.
Which is why it was kind of puzzling when they eventually gave Conan O’Brien his own turn at bat on The Tonight Show. Conan was definitely not the white bread, middle of the road guy Leno was. Conan’s always been about the absurd, the outlandish, and the awkward laughs you get from things like robot pimps, talking dog puppets, or masturbating bears. Sure, in 12:35-Land that type of thing swings just as well. But in 11:35-Land? Grammy and Gramps are still watching, and they don’t like masturbating bears. Still, Conan’s promotion in Late Night television was assured, and (at least in my opinion) after a couple flop sweating shows in the beginning, Conan’s gotten himself back on track for Late Night awesomeness. And somehow, NBC feels justified to be shitting all over it by pushing him back to 12:05.
The obvious reasons are there for everyone to see: Jay Leno is a name and putting him in his old timeslot seems to be a surefire way of regaining the magic. Conan is still kind of floundering in his timeslot, and since the “wait and see” approach isn’t fashionable anymore, they need to push him back towards his old timeslot and hopefully reclaim some magic there too. Jimmy Fallon is a no-talent assclown who probably relies on his writers to stay afloat, so why not push him to the Carson Daly slot. They only really need one of those types anyway, and if it’s a Jimmy/Carson cage match, Jimmy’s gonna win.
Perhaps the biggest reason for NBC’s shake up is that they signed a two year contract with Jay for his little show, and its failure had lead their affiliates to revolt against their decision making “prowess. By signing The Jay Leno Show to a two year contract, NBC had robbed itself of five hours of scripted/reality programming a week, and robbed the local affiliates of ratings towards their local newscasts. Which ultimately equates to the simple truth that everyone arrived at in the beginning of this matter: NBC’s decision to milk the Jay Leno cash cow dry was the stupidest fucking idea they had had since cancelling Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But much like the fans of Heroes, they didn’t care about that nagging feeling in the back of their heads that said “This is going to suck” or “This can only go so far”. They bypassed all fears of failure, and dove headfirst into the cement.
The one person I have the most sympathy for in this whole affair is, naturally, Conan O’Brien. A lot of people, myself included, are worried that he’s going to get screwed over by the fact that NBC just can’t quit Jay Leno. Today’s supposed to be the day they renew talks, and I think it’s a testament to Conan’s classy nature that he’s still around for talks. If I were him, I’d have pulled a Letterman and walked if they’d screwed with my timeslot. Hell, they want Leno so much why not just give him The Tonight Show back and let Conan either take his old slot or move onto another network that’ll treat him better. (Fox would probably want to jump in on this, if they weren’t so happy with their Seinfeld reruns and Wanda Sykes on Saturdays.) I don’t see why Comedy Central wouldn’t be open to taking Conan on for the 12 Midnight slot, at least there it’d be an upgrade as opposed to a forced demotion.
And while we’re on the subject of solutions, why not put Jay Leno’s Circlejerk Extravaganza online as a Web Only show? You’d still be paying him, he’d still be online, and you’d be open to keep Conan happy. Whether you like it or not NBC, it’s not your job to keep Leno happy. (That ship sailed after he “retired” from The Tonight Show.) Indeed, your job is to keep Conan O’Brien happy now, because he’s carrying the Late Night banner in his very hands. How you haven’t come to realize that fact yet makes me think you’re not all that bright up there. Honestly, do you really want another Letterman on your hands? You’ve already made that mistake, so it’s nigh impossible to claim ignorance on it this time. Give Leno a Web Only version of The Jay Leno Show, move it to weekends; and put your major marketing muscle behind The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien like you should have in the first place. (Does anyone else remember how inescapable Jay’s chin was before his show went on air? I couldn’t go to the movies all last summer without seeing that smirking mug.)
Oh, and just one more note, specifically directed to Jimmy Fallon: your job should have gone to me, or at the very least, Andy Samberg. (Whom I’ve come to very much appreciate over the past year or so.) We’re two of the funniest people ever to have crossed the threshold of 30 Rock, and we could kick your ass in a laugh off. Just saying. (Sorry for the harsh words a long time ago, Andy. I fully retract them and wish you nothing but the best. Oh, and the Digital Shorts thing has totally done a 180 in my eyes. Good on you, my man. What say you and I do the Host/Sidekick routine and bring The Edge of Night with Andy Samberg and Mike Reyes into reality?)
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