She Watches Leno On Oprah So You Don't Have To -

She Watches Leno On Oprah So You Don’t Have To


UPDATE: Here is a full transcript of the Leno/Oprah victimfest.

Also, Gawker TV has its usual collection of clips from the event.

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune is watching Jay Leno’s appearance on Oprah (which doesn’t air around here until the afternoon) and she’s live-blogging some of his self-defensive comments.

Much of what he says is basically true, albeit one-sided and phrased in such a way to make him sound — as always — like the victim. So while he doesn’t try to sugarcoat the failure of The Jay Leno Show, he also portrays himself as the little guy up against the big behemoths on the other networks:

As for competing in the prime-time arena, it was difficult, Leno said, especially given that other networks banned their actors from going on Leno’s new show.

“It’s a lot more competitive. If I’m in late night, I know I’m competing with Dave [Letterman] every night. … We could book against [other late-night shows]. To book [guests] against the ‘CSI’ evil twin episode, that’s going to be very hard to do.”

“Why do you think the show failed?” Oprah asked.

“I think the show failed because it was basically a late-night talk show at 10 o’clock. You’re competing with dramas that are $3 to $6 million an episode,” Leno said.

The weirdest moment, from reading it, is where he says that he was lying (“a white lie”) in 2004 when he said he was going to retire, and that he always figured he would probably get a job on another network. I don’t know how that makes him sound good, but he seems to think it does.

Ryan is also responsible for the recent long, in-depth interview with Lost creators Lindelof and Cuse, all three parts of which are well worth reading.

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She Watches Leno On Oprah So You Don’t Have To

  1. To me, the worst is when he says: "Well, if you look at where the [Conan 'Tonight Show'] ratings were [long pause], it was already destructive to the franchise."

    I mean, sure, Conan's ratings were bad, but even Jay goes on and on about what a failure putting "The Jay Leno Show" at 10:00 was, and yet he seems totally oblivious to the fact that this was a large part of the reason that Conan's ratings were bad. If you basically just watched the Tonight Show at 10:00, why would you stay up and watch it again at 11:30? If you're an actor deciding where to go to promote your new movie, why would you go on the Tonight Show at 11:30, when you can go on the Tonight show at 10:00?

    Jay Leno couldn't compete with David Letterman for almost two years when he first took over, and his 10:00 lead in was ER for God's sake. Oprah says she's surprised that people are against Jay, and chalks it up to people not understanding how television works, but based on Jay Leno's commentary here, I'm pretty sure I understand how television works better than Jay Leno does. Actually, I'm quite certain I DON'T understand television better than Jay Leno does, which is how I know he's being disingenuous. Once NBC put Jay Leno on at 10:00, Conan's days were numbered, and Jay's return to the Tonight Show was all but certain. I think Jay and the suits at NBC all knew this perfectly well (so did Conan probably) and if Jay Leno's understanding of television is so minuscule that he didn't get that, well, then that's reason # 3,478 that someone needs to get that man off my television.

  2. Oprah asks Leno if it was selfish for him to take his old job back. Wasn't it selfish of Conan to get NBC to push #1 Leno out of the way in 2004?

    Leno could have gone to Fox (or possibly even CBS to retire Letterman, who he's been beating for years). Conan might have failed at 11:30 anyway and then where would NBC be?

    I continue to be mystified by the hatred directed at Leno. If you don't like his comedy, don't watch him. But he's supposed to go away and put all his staff on the unemployment line because NBC miscalculated?

    Leno's supposed to lie down for Conan, who got NBC to set his retirement date 5 years in advance a la "Logan's Run?" Live by the sword, die by the sword, Coco.

    The conspiracy Lord Kitchener describes, of putting Jay on at 10 knowing it would hurt Conan, is ridiculous on its face, even for NBC. Suggesting NBC set Conan up (and Jay, for that matter) to fail on purpose is giving them too much credit, as I think even Conan would agree.

    As I've said elsewhere, it's show business, not show principles.

    • "Oprah asks Leno if it was selfish for him to take his old job back. Wasn't it selfish of Conan to get NBC to push #1 Leno out of the way in 2004?"

      If Leno wouldn't have agreed to the deal, Conan could have left and started a new show on ABC or Fox or whatever. It was the promise of the Tonight Show in 5 years that kept him.

      It was totally unfair to induce Conan to stay with the network when he got more lucrative offers from other networks, then pull the rug out from under him after 7 months.

      Leno sounds like a Nuremberg defendant – "I was just following orders."

      Well he could have said no.

      All this talk about NBC not releasing him from his contract is nonsense. Once his show was cancelled, he would have been free to go to another network if he wanted. His contract specified the 10-11 time period. He wanted 11:35 back and signed a new deal to get it knowing the Conan didn't want to give it up.

      • Well, I don't normally risk baiting people who've already invoked Hitler, but:

        It was NBC that made the deal with Conan, not Leno. they just asked Leno to go along, and he did as generously and professionally as he could be expected to. Leno had no guarantee that NBC would still want him after his 10 p.m. show did as badly as it did, and in fact says he asked NBC to let him out of his contract.

        Conan "got more lucrative offers from other networks" — WHAT lucrative offers?

        Conan played hardball with NBC in 2004 and things didn't end up how he planned. None of that is Leno's fault.

        • Glad to finally read someone on the same side as me on this. Conan is not as innocent in all this as some would like to think. Just because Conan is funnier and cooler, people want to believe that he must be the more honourable man as well.

  3. Ironic, isn't it? As shown by this article (and unfortunately for Mr. Leno and his bosses at NBC), the basic story of their programming fiasco just won't go away. And their endless stream of carefully worded explanations – much less, soul-searching interviews on 'Oprah' – don't seem to be helping much, either.

    For any readers too young to recall (or maybe just not interested in late night TV, at the time), it might help your perspective on the current Leno vs O'Brien mess to read some background on the original Leno vs Letterman feud. Here's the full story of how Jay Leno took over the 'The Tonight Show' hosting gig from long-time host Johnny Carson, way back in 1993.
    . (complete article – NY Times; 1994)