Thursday, January 28, 2010

I watch Leno on Oprah so you don't have to

Dear Oprah, please use some of your billions to hire a proofreader. Thanks!

"Oprah" airs in Chicago nine hours earlier than it does here in Northern California, so a lot has already been written about Jay Leno's sit-down with the Queen of Daytime TV. So consider this an outline for those of you who have followed the Talk Show Wars saga obsessively -- did anything new or surprising come out of the broadcast? Here are a few of the highlights (credit to The Wrap for the transcript):

When NBC execs told Leno that Conan would be taking over "Tonight" in 2009, it "broke [his] heart." The normally reticent Leno has never spoken so frankly about, well, his feelings. Unlike a Corvette Z06, if you prick Jay Leno, does he not bleed? So he told "a white lie on the air. I said I’m going to retire. It just made it easier that way."

Why didn't Jay just go to another network instead of agreeing to NBC's 10 PM experiment? Switching networks is "a lot of work. I mean, you don't know where you're going, you don't know who you're dealing with. I’ve been at [NBC] since 1984 in one form or another. I know the lighting guys, I know what lighting guys I want, I know the makeup -- I just know -- I’m comfortable here. I’m not someone who jumps around."

Of course, Leno repeated his talking point about how he had to keep working for the sake of his 175 employees. Oprah challenged him on the thousands of people who were left jobless by the removal of scripted programming at 10 PM. " I’ve got to admit, that was not something I even realized until we went on the air," said Leno. "But they're not wrong. I have to admit, that one did catch me. We were on the air when I realized, wow, I have to admit, that one I didn't know about that."

Why didn't Jay pick up the phone and call Conan when NBC floated the idea of moving him back to 11:35, while shifting "Tonight" to 12:05? "It wasn't my place to call Conan," responded Jay.

Oprah: "Conan said [in his "People of Earth" letter] he thought it would be destructive to the franchise and that if he took that spot..."

Jay: "Well, if you look at what the ratings were, it was already destructive to the franchise."

How did Jay feel about Jimmy Kimmel's amazing appearance on his own show's "10 @ 10"? "I got sucker punched," said Leno. "It's my show. I could have edited it. But I said, no, no, put it out there. I walked into it... But, you know, when you get sucker punched, you just get right back up again."

Oprah told Jay she thought his joke about David Letterman's marital problems was "beneath you." "But how many jokes like that have I done?" asked Jay. "One. I did one joke in the middle of the week and I never did another one, because I said, there, I had a cheap shot thrown at me, I threw one cheap shot back and I moved on."

Oprah really pressed Jay on why he didn't just walk away from NBC after they'd "fired" (in his words) him twice. I have to admit, the interview was a bit tougher than I expected. After you dig through all the stuff about those brave, heroic and hard-working 175 employees who needed jobs, and NBC's assertion that they had done focus groups showing that the 10 o'clock show would be a big success, you arrive at what I consider the truth about why Leno is going back to "Tonight," and why he never wanted to leave:

"Every day coming to work here was paradise," he said of his years on "Tonight." It's a wonderful staff, great people to work with, it was a lot of fun, and the days just rolled by... It was just the most wonderful experience of my life."

Jay never wanted to give up "Tonight," and he's going back because he loved being the host of "Tonight." Period.

Oh, and Jay doesn't think Oprah will follow through on her plans to step away from her long-running talk show. "You know, if you're a gunfighter, you like to die in the street... You and I will hold hands and walk out into the sunset together. You're not going anywhere, I'm not going anywhere."

In other words, Jimmy Fallon, if your dream, like Jay and Conan, is to one day host "Tonight," you'd better bide your time, because Leno's not leaving. Ever.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Oh gimme a freakin' break! He wants us to believe he "didn't know" about the massive job loss from scripted programming until he was on the air? What a dumbassed stance to take.

    I guess he couldn't tell the truth, which is that he didn't give a SHIT about THOSE jobs, he only cared about his precious lil staff's jobs. (And his too, of course).

    Not the nice guy everyone makes him out to be after all huh?

    I cant believe this guy wants to keep doing a show for a network that kicked him out of Tonight in favor of Conan. I mean, doesn't he have some damn pride? Id tell NBC to go screw themselves too, just like Conan did.


  2. Anonymous said...

    "Every day coming to work here was paradise. It's a wonderful staff, great people to work with, it was a lot of fun, and the days just rolled by... It was just the most wonderful experience of my life."

    Hey, wasn't that also Conan's quote?


  3. Anonymous said...

    I'm confused, or Leno contradicts himself in one respect. He said that he asked NBC to let him out of his contract once he left The Tonight Show and they refused. Then he gives reasons for staying with NBC rather than leave.

  4. Shane G. said...

    Jay: "Well, if you look at what the ratings were, it was already destructive to the franchise."

    jeez, that's kind of a dick thing to say, I think. Conan did the show for a few months, c'mon. I'm glad Conan followed his heart and left and didn't uproot the tonight show to 12:05, and I'm sad for him that he lost his dream job. I'm excited to see the next show he does.

  5. Steve K. said...

    It was a giant circlejerk for the most part, with some stabs at Conan destroying the franchise and Jay being an asshole about the whole thing.
    He kept pushing this shit about dollars, affiliates and not having ratings in TV land means you're out. Except you had bad ratings, but got a fucking PROMOTION!

    He's like this robot without a shred of emotion or ambition. "Did you not think you were taking away Conan's dream?" "Nope, NUMBURRRZ AND DOLLLLUUURRZZ".

    But Oprah said she's with him on this, so Jay bashing is now official outlawed.

  6. bmfc1 said...

    He made cracks about Dave 3 times, not once. In addition to the above line, on Monday of that week, he said something about Dave sleeping with his staff (I think it was “I didn’t sleep with my staff for nothing”). On Thursday of that week, he was with Chelsea Handler, took her to a fake motel set so she could read from her book, and said “You know where I got this idea? From Letterman.”

    He’s not only classless, he’s a liar.

  7. Keonyn said...

    Yeah, I don't buy any of it for a second. He talks about the importance of the jobs of his staff, which is certainly admirable if he cares that much for other people; but yet he didn't realize his move would put many times the number employed by his show out of work.

    Plus, what about Conan's staff that is going to lose their jobs now, and many of them were uprooted from New York and moved themselves across the country, only to have NBC and Jay give them walking papers 7 months later.

    Jay also has no room to talk about dollars and ratings. His own show struggled in that same regard when he was where Conan was, it takes time to build the audience and loyalty when there's a major shift.

    This whole interview was damage control, and that's exactly what it felt like from start to finish. It was just Jays sob story, and no real hard hitting questions about Conan and its effect on him or his staff, or anything from his side. I generally respect Oprah, but there was some definite bias here, and she didn't ask the proper journalistic questions.

    Everything felt too insincere and scripted, like the questions were meant to touch on an issue only enough so that Jay could paint himself as the victim, but not actually hit on anything that might paint him in even a slightly negative light.