Monday, January 25, 2010

NBC and the Grip of Jay Leno

I can't understand it. NBC gave us Seinfeld, The West Wing, 30 Rock, The Office, Cheers, The Cosby Show, The A-Team, Frasier, Star Trek....basically some of the most popular and successful television shows in history. Shows that, for better or worse, have shaped American culture(yes, it should give us pause that TV can do that, but I think we just need to accept it.)

That list, of course, should also include the tremendously successful Tonight Show and Late Night With David Letterman. Something happened, though, that blurged up the greatness of those shows: Jay Leno.

In 1992, when Johnny Carson was retiring from The Tonight Show, a well-known spat erupted over who would succeed him. David Letterman had been in the slot right after Johnny Carson, and so he seemed like the logical choice to take over. Even Johnny wanted it. Somehow, though, NBC, the network that seemed to have the golden touch, decided that the lesser-known Leno should be the host.

Fast-forwarding to 2009, NBC is at it again. Conan O'Brien gets bumped for Jay Leno. I would love to understand what power Jay Leno has over NBC that he can throw his weight around like this. He's not that funny. Why would NBC continually choose Leno over the comedic genius of Letterman and O'Brien? What's going on there?

Jay Leno has a grip on NBC. A fierce grip. What is the secret of your power, Jay?


  1. Yet another case of a Boomer refusing to concede to the inevitable effects of aging. I believe Mr. Poitier may have had some words that apply to this situation.

    Even if Jay had nothing to do with the decision, that makes him a stooge, which isn't very admirable either.

  2. The power that Jay Leno has over NBC is that NBC has been generally tanking in the ratings for several years. They are a 4th place network that can't afford the ratings that Conan was pulling in. Leno used to do a 2.0 rating every night in the late night slot and Conan was lucky to pull a 1. And Jay was a terrible lead in for the news. All of the affiliates were losing huge ratings - some as much as 25% in the news daypart - which translates into big dollars for local stations. What NBC is guilty of is wanting to put their finger in the dam of the ratings drain without any long-term vision. I think the only pull that Jay has is the ability to get some decent late night ratings, one of the only dayparts that NBC was doing well at. It all comes down to money.

  3. It is clearly the the all consuming power of The Chin. Can you imagine that thing coming down the hall towards you? I think you'd capitulate to whatever The Chin demanded if it were oppressing you in that way.

    Also - it is all about the Benjamins baby. As franksbeans noted neither Jay nor Conan were performing at the level NBC needed them to, so they had to dump one. Unfortunately it was The Awkward Looking Red-head and not The Chin. However in the process of making the move, NBC exposed their stupidity and inability to control the inner workings of their network. Ultimately I don't think it will matter who does the Tonight show, the Earlier in the Night show or the Tomorrow show. No one will watch now.