NBC chairman bails Leno out of 10 p.m. spot

“The Jay Leno Show” has trailed Conan O’Brien’s “The Tonight Show” in ratings since the NBC comedy controversy started.

The first two weeks of 2010 are proof that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. A slugger cried and apologized for taking steroids, a nation in no condition to handle a disaster suffered a great one and Sarah Palin has shoehorned her way onto televisions everywhere.

In 2009, the economy collapsed and the government deemed the banks “too big to fail.”

Now, with the drop in “The Tonight Show” ratings since Conan O’Brien took over just seven months ago — which many attribute to the bad lead in of “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. on NBC and the local news at 11 p.m. — Leno is getting bailed out.

Instead of just canceling “The Jay Leno Show,” which has lost to Conan in the ratings since this controversy started, NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker has decided to give “The Tonight Show” back to Leno.

In many circumstances, you get what you pay for. Here we are again. Zucker’s stupidity has lead to the biggest television fiasco since Leno stole “The Tonight Show” from Johnny Carson’s hand-picked successor, David Letterman, in 1992.

It’s no coincidence that NBC has been the lowest rated network under Zucker’s watch, giving viewers no reason to tune in beside the Thursday night comedy block.

Zucker was given his position as chairman because of his work on “The Today Show,” where he was in charge of coming up with gimmicks like the people outside with signs. This is as shocking a revelation as John McCain not vetting Sarah Palin before naming her his running mate (wouldn’t be surprised if Obama didn’t vet Biden either).

Zucker planted seeds in 2004 creating this situation by giving Leno five more years. Then 54, Leno was doing stand-up on the weekends in addition to his show. It was clear that a 59-year-old Leno wouldn’t ride into the sunset on one of his many cars. Instead of letting him go to another network, Zucker put him in at 10 p.m.

“The Jay Leno Show” has failed conclusively, but Zucker refuses to get rid of Leno.

He demoted him when he was number one in the ratings and promotes him when he’s last. Throughout his tenure the only thing Zucker seems to keep in mind is that Leno is his meal ticket. He’s too valuable to NBC.

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” got ratings that beat Letterman for years. Now, he is getting the last laugh as Leno has bastardized what was once a program of tradition and prestige.

Letterman has taken shots at Leno in the past, but it wasn’t until last week that he did his whiny impression of Leno on air. He’s waited almost twenty years, but finally Letterman is getting his as Leno returns to “The Tonight Show” with his audience dashed and the public outraged.

Letterman has got to be licking his chops for Leno’s return.
Leno might have the ratings again at 11:35 (as there are many people who will always prefer Leno), but he has the least integrity of all the late-night comedians and is now on the Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia level of abhorrence.

He’s a corporate shill, a sellout who hocks products on air, bounces jokes off his soul-less guitar player and consistently appeals to the lowest common denominator.

In his never funny, always insulting “Jaywalking” segment, he finds dolts on the street and laughs with a sense of superiority as they strike out on his softball questions. These dimwits are the same crowd that makes up Leno’s audience, and I guess they enjoy when their televisions serve as a mirror.

Leno started out as a very good stand-up, with precise delivery and manic work ethic. But, Leno the comedian wasn’t what we once thought he’d be. He tailors his show to the affiliates, something Conan could easily do.

But, Conan made few concessions outside of leaving the Masturbating Bear character in New York, and that’s why comedy fans love him and always will (read his Harvard commencement speech if you haven’t already).

Leno and Zucker deserve each other. It’s Leno that goes out on stage every night and stomps on Johnny Carson’s soul, but it’s Zucker who put truth in Leno’s words when he said last week that, “N.B.C. stands for Never Believe your Contract.”


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