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Jay Leno on 'The Tonight Show:' 'If it works, it works...'

No. 3: Jay Leno takes over 10 p.m.

No. 3: Jay Leno takes over 10 p.m.
Maybe this will be the future of TV or maybe it'll be the past when/if Comcast pulls the plug. But an amazing TV development nonetheless and even upstaged the fact that - oh! almost forgot - the fifth host in "Tonight" history was crowned, Conan O.
>>Photos: Jay Leno on air
Credit: NBC

Speaking of major anniversaries (see "Oprah," below) it was also 20 years ago today that Jay Leno ascended the "Tonight Show" throne. Here's an interesting clip from that long ago time (thanks to for finding) in which Jay chats with Katie Couric. It's a wonder to watch because Jay affects this aw-shucks nonchalance — "I'm not a high pressure type .?.?. if it works it works .?.?."  Indeed. And how subsequent events proved otherwise. The show and Jay nearly imploded within weeks of this after his manager, Helen Kushnick, made matters so intolerable between Jay and the former Carson camp — not to mention NBC — that the network started to wonder whether it had made the mistake of all mistakes. Meanwhile, Jay's "calm" and "laid-back" demeanor was dramatically proven otherwise in Bill Carter's "The Late Shift."

Jay hung in, of course, to become the second most successful host in "Tonight Show" history. It's amazing to me NBC has made absolutely nothing of this anniversary, no doubt fearful the tributes would rattle on about "The Jay Leno Show." Oh right. That. And I suppose there would be some technicality pointed out like, "well Conan did take over for a couple of days, etc." Of course, they could always be like Stalin and pretend a whole piece of their history never happened. In any event, happy 20th Jay.


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