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."
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.