Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Op-Eds

News Opinion Op-Eds

NBC cans Leno again -- do they really mean it this time?

Jay Leno had to know the head honchos at NBC were gunning for him when he told the following joke last Monday night: "You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right?" he asked the audience in his opening monologue. "St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland -- and then they came to the United States and became NBC executives."

The harsh humor directed at the guys who hold his fate in their hands is just the latest sign that the star and the bosses pretty much detest each other. So, is Jay really being replaced by Jimmy Fallon? Is "The Tonight Show" going to leave Los Angeles (aka Burbank) and move to New York City where it was born back in the days of Steve Allen? Is this going to be another ill-conceived idea cooked up in NBC's corporate suite that will cost the network even more viewers? We will find out as the latest Machiavellian twist in the serious business of late-hours TV comedy unfolds.

Until Jay Leno took over NBC's "Tonight Show" in 1992, late-night television was a realm dominated by one undisputed king, Johnny Carson. Then the unending wars of succession began.

David Letterman had held down the afterhours slot following Carson, biding his time in the hope of moving to 11:30 when Johnny finally called it quits. When Mr. Leno grabbed the crown instead, Mr. Letterman moved to CBS and promptly beat his rival in the ratings game -- at least for a while.

That old rivalry between Carson's would-be heirs seems like an orderly duel compared to the current pig pile of joke-slinging hosts. A revolving lineup of ambitious comedians on several networks has been taking a shot at stealing pieces of the nocturnal audience, scrambling the ratings equation in the process. One of the most successful of the bunch is Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. The word is that his show is being moved up to directly take on "The Tonight Show." Despite the fact that Mr. Leno still tops the ratings, inside sources at NBC say it is certain the 62-year-old veteran will be replaced in 2014 by the youngest of the young upstarts, 38-year-old Mr. Fallon, the current host of NBC's "Late Night."

Network execs are betting their Jimmy will do a better job holding younger viewers in a face off with ABC's Jimmy. Of course, an earlier gaggle of programming gurus notoriously tried this before. In 2009, "The Tonight Show" was awarded to the then-host of "Late Night," Conan O'Brien, and Leno was given the consolation prize of a show at 10 p.m. That did not work out well. Within months, Jay was back and Mr. O'Brien was cast into the comedy wilderness until he landed a gig with TBS.

Is Mr. Leno really gone this time? Stay tuned.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Men, their sons and their lawns

    Men, their sons and their lawns

    Along with eye color and a knack for rolling your tongue, an obsession with the grass around your house is hereditary, I have learned. It is also, apparently, a sex-linked gene, because no little girl has ever been born wanting to mow the lawn.

  • Gag order request in Freddie Gray case shows prosecutor's misunderstanding

    Gag order request in Freddie Gray case shows prosecutor's misunderstanding

    The searing spotlight of media scrutiny fell upon a Maryland state's attorney, a rising star in Democratic politics. After a high-profile beating death, the young prosecutor convened a news conference to announce murder charges, detail the evidence and insist that the public's desire for justice...

  • Jeb Bush has bigger problems than Iraq war stumble

    Jeb Bush has bigger problems than Iraq war stumble

    By now everyone has had their say about Jeb Bush's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. The consensus is that Mr. Bush misheard Megyn Kelly's "knowing what we know now" question about the Iraq war. I'm not convinced.

  • Gov. Hogan's funding games have consequences

    Gov. Hogan's funding games have consequences

    In the last few weeks we've heard much about the neglected and underdeveloped parts of Baltimore and how decades of degradation and neglect played a role in the recent social upheaval and civil unrest. Almost universally we've heard activists, experts and thought leaders tout education as a surefire...

  • Don't give up on Baltimore, Preakness

    Don't give up on Baltimore, Preakness

    There's been talk about moving the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico, which is in my district and has been home to the second leg of The Triple Crown for 140 years, to Laurel. I get it. Pimlico needs work to bring its facility up to par with Laurel Raceway. Laurel is closer to Washington and would...

  • The failed war on drugs continues to amass casualties in Baltimore and beyond

    The failed war on drugs continues to amass casualties in Baltimore and beyond

    As rightly concerned and upset as we are about Freddie Gray's death in police custody, we ought to be just as concerned about the body count that existed prior to his death and has been on the rise ever since (there have been roughtly three dozen homicides in Baltimore since Gray died, not counting...

Comments
Loading

73°