I haven’t had a lot to say about Jay Leno and Conan O’Brian’s recent Tonight Show kerfuffle. Andy posted this on his blog:
I’m sure a lot of people watch this and snicker about how much of a hypocrite Jay is, but I can’t agree with that. My take on this is that Jay did exactly what he said he would do here. When the day came, he handed the keys to the Tonight Show to Conan and went on his way to a new show.
Now, the reality is that after he did that, Conan started getting his ass kicked on a nightly basis by a serial sexual predator and verbal abuser of teenage daughters of politicians. After quite literally generations of Johnny and Jay keeping the Tonight Show #1, in less than a year Conan was #2 and dropping.
For Jay to come back to the show after that is not hypocrisy. It’s reaction to reality. I’m not trying to defend Jay here, but in the world of network television, ratings have consequences.
Now, my own personal expectation when Conan was announced as the heir to Jay Leno was that it was a mistake. Conan is simply too bizarre to be the host of the Tonight Show. I’m sure he has his fans, but every time I’ve watched him I’ve had to shake my head and say “man, what the heck are you thinking?” I never expected his style of “humor” to be successful in that format. He’s too quirky and too self-referential. He doesn’t sell in Peoria.
The only blame I can assign here is to the network mental giants who put Conan into that job in the first place. It was doomed to failure from the start and it amazes me how completely wrong people who make millions of dollars a year to make programming choices can be on a regular basis. Conan’s failure was inevitable. And for Jay to decide at age 60 that he’s still got some game left is no different than Brett Favre doing the same thing at 39. And 40. And 41. Conan had to go. Jay was simply the best option to try to revive the franchise.