Sandra’s Post – Mess Up À Trois


By SANDRA LORD – Caribbean

– MESS UP À TROIS: LENO, NBC, CONAN…Oh, & LETTERMAN

(©) 2010 Lord Sisters. All Rights Reserved.

It’s so good to see Jay Leno back on the Tonight Show, where he rightfully belongs. Jay’s debut on March 1, as host of the esteemed program for the second time around, beat out all the late night competition, not surprisingly, with an estimated 6.6 million viewers.

For several weeks I have been seething about the treatment Jay has received at the hands of the media, fellow comedians and other celebrities regarding the O’Brien-NBC saga.

Even the proud little peacock on the NBC logo, still justifiably hiding itself in shame, could have told network executives that the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien switcheroo was a disaster in the making. The signs of a debacle were so obvious, it’s amazing NBC execs did not see it coming!

That fiasco sparked a lot of anger in Hollywood and most of it seemed have been directed at Leno. People seemed to be siding with Conan and searching for reasons to vilify Jay. I just didn’t get it!

I like Jay Leno, plain and simple – more than Letterman and more than Conan and I don’t particularly care to hear anything negative about him.

I have read and listened to bashings by a hurt Howard Stern who has continued to accuse Leno of “stealing,” among a number of things, a member of his staff to work on the Tonight Show. I’m not a fan of Howard Stern’s either (although I think he would be a heckuva replacement for Simon Cowell on American Idol), but beneath the façade of his biting vitriol, I sense a (surprising) redeeming quality – Howard holds loyalty dearly. So I can understand why, if, as Howard asserts, he considered Jay to be a friend, he could have felt betrayed by him.

I have listened to Rosie O’Donnell’s diatribe about how Leno stymied her efforts to be a Friday night guest host on Tonight. Apparently in the early stages of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, when the show wasn’t doing so well, NBC wanted Rosie to fill in as a guest host on Fridays. She says Leno nixed it saying he didn’t need one because he liked to work all the time, didn’t take vacations and wouldn’t be taking any days off. Rosie felt she was robbed of her dream of hosting the historic program because of Leno’s insecurity and selfishness. Rosie is understandably bitter.

Obviously, sitting in the chair as a guest host, or heaven forbid, the actual host of the Tonight Show, is sacrosanct – virtually every American comedian’s dream. So, I understand how anyone would resent someone standing in the way of their realizing that dream.

A stream of others has criticized Jay, including talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel. (Now, how did HE get into the fray?) Kimmel should be very thankful to Leno for going back to the Tonight Show, because if Leno had left NBC, ABC would have most likely grabbed him up and that would’ve probably spelled doom for Jimmy who??

I am also tired of the longstanding feud between Jay and David Letterman, over whom Leno triumphed to inherit the Tonight Show (hopefully it’s buried after their recent Super Bowl commercial). And I’m tired of the widely held belief that Leno somehow surreptitiously commandeered the coveted spot from heir-apparent, Letterman.

Rumor has it that Johnny Carson had always viewed Letterman, not Leno, as his rightful successor. But besides allegedly hiding in a closet to listen in on NBC executive meetings about Carson’s replacement, I have yet to find any plausible explanation as to how exactly Leno “stole” the spot from Letterman.

Would Letterman have excelled as host of the Tonight Show? Absolutely.

I have always liked Letterman’s acerbic humor, deadpan expressions and the way he could work his way around a difficult interview. When I first started visiting this country in the ’80s, I watched him faithfully…I was intrigued by him and a big fan. However, I turned off when I saw him mock and embarrass a female guest who had been named the most intelligent person on the planet – or some other similar title. Letterman seemed to have a big problem with it and derided her mercilessly. I lost respect for him on the spot.

Although I have since watched his show on occasion – mainly because my sister, Allison, is an avid Letterman fan (and his “Great Moments in Presidential History” were to die-for), I am not goo-goo over him as I once was.

As for Conan, I had watched him over the years during his stint as host of Late Night on NBC. I found him funny at times and enjoyed his self-deprecating humor and goofy comedic bits. Even though I thought Conan was extremely talented, I never thought of him as a contender for the Tonight Show throne.

When NBC announced in 2004 that Conan was going to replace Jay Leno, I was aghast. I knew immediately that the execs at NBC had gone mad. After all, despite entering late night television as the dark horse in 1992, Jay Leno had managed to keep the prized Tonight Show franchise at the top of the ratings game for 15 of his 17 years. No easy feat, considering he was consistently up against the highly-respected, tremendously talented force that is David Letterman and constantly plagued by critics’ denunciations of him — “Leno can’t hold a candle to Letterman,” “not funny,” “boring,” blah, blah, blah.

But for me, Conan was too goofy to inherit, far less carry, the legacy of the esteemed Tonight Show.

Jay was effectively ‘forced out.’ He did not give up the Tonight Show or promise it to Conan, then took it back. It was not his to give or take back. He had no say in the matter and as he told Oprah in a recent interview he was “devastated” at the time. Who wouldn’t have been?

As we all know, NBC’s attempts to keep both Conan and Jay at the network failed miserably. Talk about having your cake and wanting to eat it too, in one gulp!

After O’Brien struck a deal worth a reported $45 million to leave the network, the peacock network put its feathers between its legs and offered Tonight back to Jay. NBC then said it was pleased that Jay was “returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for so many years.” Duh! He should have never been forced out in the first place!

Leno has said he’s glad to have his “dream job” back and why shouldn’t he? But some have felt that he had a good run and like Carson should have left with dignity; should have rejected NBC’s offer, and at 60, retire. I say, ‘and then what?’ The fact is, if Conan’s numbers were good, he would still be the host of the Tonight Show, period.

So, I am definitely not convinced that Jay is the backstabbing, two-faced, conniving, manipulating selfish bastard that Stern, Letterman, Rosie, Kimmel, publicists, stars and others have painted him to be. He has a middle of the road general appeal and you just cannot fake the kind of “nice” that Jay Leno exudes! Stern and company just seem to be exploiting the situation in an attempt to avenge their long-harbored individual vendettas against Leno…justified beefs or not, it was – and simply is – the wrong fight!

The blame needs to be put squarely on NBC and people should stop making Jay the fall guy for its crazy, ill thought out plans.

By the way, why is it that network executives don’t seem to grasp the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” NBC had a winning team of Leno at 11:35 followed by O’Brien at 12:35 and just messed it up.

But Hollywood is a place where people fail upwards, so apart from a bruised ego, failing is not such a bad thing, as there’s always another place to go in Tinseltown. Ask Conan, he said it best, “no one $hould waste a $econd feeling $orry for me” – I don’t.

At the end of the day, neither of these guys, Leno, Letterman, Obrien, is bad. Each has a unique brand of humor and appeals to a different demographic. But, unless they own the network, none of them is safe, not even Kimmel. This past week, even Sarah Palin reminded Jay about the uncertainty of his job, insinuating she could be a future contender. Yikes!

In the meantime, in true Hollywood style, the publicists and stars who took sides and shunned Leno on his struggling 10PM Jay Leno Show, will no doubt shamelessly appear again on the Tonight Show.

Jay seemed a little nervous on his first night, but I have no doubt he will soon be back at the top of his game.

26 Responses to “Sandra’s Post – Mess Up À Trois”

  1. Judith Smith says:

    All three have a place. It’s a shame that such decision caused so much trauma. Monies lost – – monies gained – – eog’s lost ego’s gained – – and hopefully “egg” wiped off faces as time goes by – – at least NBC got the viewership to see who would come out the victor.

    Good site, Sandra, lots of thought went into your comments. Love the caricature portrayals! Fabulous site !

  2. Dr. Ratchett says:

    A masturbating bear? Classy, huh? That’s what Conan’s show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien was about in a nutshell. And NBC thought this could replace Leno? Come on. Welcome back, Jay!

  3. Esther P. says:

    Personally, I don’t really care about who hosts the “Tonight Show”. However, what angers me about this whole deal is the ammount of money that was thrown into the air for no reason. Unfortunately, that comes to show the caliber of people that are in charge of these major networks. No wonder T.V has become almost tedious to watch.

  4. QuentinQ says:

    really cool animation. don’t care too much for any of these guys. my kid could tell better jokes and we would take less money to do the show.

  5. BernieRedhead says:

    was wondering the same thing about Jimmy Kimmel. how did he get into the fight? talk about looking for publicity. now here’s a guy who can’t hold a candle to Leno, Letterman or Conan and he got his own show. I agree, these tv executives are totally nuts.

  6. Comedian Looking for a Break says:

    Conan made off with all the money and we fools are still feeling sorry for him. I like I like Letterman and I like Leno, but if I have to choose, I would watch Leno. Both men have silly skits (why do they do these silly bits anyway?), but at the end of the day, I prefer Leno. He’s funnier. He proved it by beating Letterman for 15 straight years and he’s back to give him another run for the money. But, seriously Jay, you have to get rid of some of those stupid out-on-the-street sketches featuring un-funny comedians. You can give comedians a break by just letting them do a few minutes of standup like Carson did. That would be part of your legacy. Think about it.

  7. Raven says:

    I disagree with you about Conan. Yes, I’m on the Coco bandwagon. Coco is extremely talented and would’ve been a royal King on the Tonight Show throne. He is a comedic genius who never got a chance to show us what he could do with the Tonight Show. Both Leno and Coco should have left NBC high and dry. At the end of the day, it’s all about money and these executives don’t care about either of these guys. I can’t wait to see where Coco will land. He’s going to be a big hit no matter what.

  8. Debra Love says:

    Great article and really love the caricatures…I’m a Leno fan and didn’t like how he was treated by NBC. I wish he had walked. Howard Stern, Rosie and all the others need to get a life. They dish it but can’t take it.

  9. Cynthia McK. says:

    I like the title of this article and bawled when I saw how you wrote “no one $hould waste a $econd feeling $orry for Conan – I don’t” – $ sign was classic.

  10. Carlos789 says:

    Yeah, Coco is da bomb. He got bank and U r just haters.

  11. Saba Moore-Doucette says:

    Hi Sandra
    You & Allison did a GREAT job! I checked out your blog & didn’t want to log off. I love, love, love “Living in America…MyCandid Opinion.” & I will spread the word to as many of our fans as I can. If you have a FB go to BollywoodtoHollywood send us the link & we’ll pass it to fans of our web show. They are world wide. As soon as I have time I will read some more. I was able to read Allison’s take on Obama. It is right on & I really like her style. I checked out Chocolate Rain, Kat & McKay & read some of the stories but not in depth. It was all a very enjoyable read. Even though we are busy we are still big fans of what you do to help others & often send people your way. Love & Light.

  12. Coco Fan says:

    Guess you won’t be attending Conan’s live stage show. Heard it’s sold out. Still think he’s not in Leno’s league?

  13. lcd tv reviews says:

    hello excellent website. you did a nice job.

  14. JohnQ says:

    Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking your feeds also, and following you on Twitter. Enjoyed all the articles and illustrations, especially this one on Leno, Conan and NBC.

  15. Ian McDonald says:

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that are different and exciting to read but that can also help me. Thank you for this insight on how Hollywood works.

  16. gummybear says:

    WTH CarlWendt! You just plain stupid or what. Obama is going to get this bill passed and there’s nothing you and your racist stupid ass cohorts can do. Get a life. LOL!

  17. Bill McDonald says:

    It’s good to see Leno still whipping Letterman’s you know what! Go Jay! Love your caricatures.

  18. Tasha says:

    Jay is kicking Letterman’s butt and I love it! Great article.

  19. Kelvin Wimpy says:

    lol, Leno is so wild! I love him.

  20. Humor Me says:

    It would seem that everything worked out well after all. Jay is back at number one. Letterman is still doing well and Conan is enjoying his huge severance pay by developing a career as the next twit. Everyone’s a winner. That’s entertainment folks.

  21. Omar says:

    NBC execs are morons. when will a brother have his own late night show?

  22. How To Conceive a Girl says:

    Geez, everytime I see blogs this good I just want mine to be there already! :) Great work.

  23. Joe Tyrone says:

    Let me tell you…Jay Leno is my fave performer. He has great presence. Just fantastic!

  24. Florita says:

    I just don’t understand why the powers that be always have to mess up a good thing. Great article. Funny.

  25. Gonzalo Huhta says:

    You made some really good funny points there. I like Jay Leno and he is a better comedian than any of these jokers. I’m glad he is back on late night television.

  26. Rhiannon says:

    Conan is the man! Team Leno and Letterman suck.

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