Leno, Letterman and Late Night Loyalties

Being a TCA member has its advantages. Thanks to critic pals Aaron Barnhart, Marc Berman and Bill Carter–as well as Buffalo News scribe Alan Pergament (who hooked me up with WGRZ affiliate GM Jim Toellner)–for helping me out on this story, posted today at MSNBC.com.
The subject is Jay Leno and the pitch from editor Gael Fashingbaur Cooper was to follow up on last week’s Broadcast & Cable interview, the one where Leno mentioned he would take his old Tonight Show job back if offered. Cooper wanted to know: Was the Jay Leno Show in any serious trouble?
NBC maintains the quote was badgered out of Leno and reading the original story, you can feel the aggressive stance writer Ben Grossman took with the NBC host. Others feel a seasoned pro like Leno says nothing he doesn’t intend to say and that the quip was some sort of signal to NBC.
I dunno. As Carter suggested to me, the Leno in the B&C piece sounds like his usual, feisty self. He can be remarkably candid and you also get a sense speaking with him (Leno was famously accessible except for those last few Tonight years, before the 10 p.m. announcement) that he genuinely wants to answer anything thrown his way.
What surprised me in speaking with Barnhart–a long time Letterman fan who has been posting regular Dave items for over 15 years ago on the Internet–was how Letterman`s recent revelations may have shifted things. For years, Letterman could do no wrong with many of us who cover television. He was our guy and we rooted for him, if not in print, in front of our own sets.
Trouble is, we could never talk to the guy. Letterman rarely did any press. Leno was the opposite, calling reporters at all hours to react to a story or challenge a report.
That career standoffishness may be working against Letterman as he attempts to move forward past the whole extortion/ confession mess.
And now that Leno is an overwhelming underdog–a position he wears like a shield–many of us seem to be shifting, if not our allegiances, then perhaps in our respect. (Even Letterman flasher Drew Barrymore, above left, seems to have switched sides.)
Interesting times, I just wish things would settle down long enough for me to stop adding chapters to my book!
Meanwhile, to look past Leno`s rating woes to the whole big picture meltdown at NBC, check out this feature in the current issue of New York magazine, passed along by another critic pal, Jim Bawden. Worth clicking to just for the feather-shedding Peacock illustrations alone (by Christoph Niemann).

2 Responses to “Leno, Letterman and Late Night Loyalties”

  1. Nice timing on the article as last night Leno failed to get even 4 million in the overnight. Leno at 10 has been a complete disaster to the entire network and multiple heads need to roll for the destruction that it’s caused. The entire network is now seen as a joke and is the laughingstock of both the media and average viewers alike.

    The only NBC show I watch anymore is 30Rock. The Office is tiring after 6 seasons and Earl was cancelled primarily so they could shove the unfunny and unoriginal garbage in at 10. Friday Night Lights is shipped off to DirectTV and is 6 months old before the NBC gets around to airing it and Chuck is only on for a half season, also because of Jay.

    And the problems aren’t just in primetime. After the unfortunate passing of Tim Russert, NBC thought the best person to replace him on Meet the Press was David Gregory and now the lead that show had over This Week is gone. Also, on the cable side, they have let MSNBC be taken over by lefty wingnuts determined to turn it into their version of FOXNews, only with less than 1/3 of the audience. They can’t even do biased, opinionated, ideological blowhards pretending to be objective newsman successfully.

    Comcast better make drastic changes if they get a hold of this mess or else we may start referring to the broadcast networks at “the big 3” again.

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  2. Leno should play up a more familiarly buddy image than “peevish”. The other segments ought to have more of a Real People ‘celebration feeling’ than the combined putting down attitude from the half wits gameshow, jay walking morons bit, and yippy too-cool reporter trade show reviews. It is a bad way to end the day for this loyal viewer.
    The old photos of Jay are a nice homey touch.

    Two other criticisms:
    The audience is over-volumed as though they’re about to go clubbing afterwards; I’m in a pyjamas and hot chocolate wind down, safe-at-home, mindset when I tune in for Leno’s show.
    And that daytime car track segment is one dull channel changer.

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