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"The Jay Leno Show:" Lessons we learned


jay Photo Credit: getty



  "The Jay Leno Show" ends tonight, and this will likely be the last time in our lives that something like this rolls around again.

 So, let us take a deep breath. Let us ponder the meaning of life, the meaning of network TV decisions, and finally the meaning of meaninglyless, thereby reducing Jay Leno once and for all to an existential puzzle...

  To the list!

 1.) "The Jay Leno Show" wasn't as bad as everyone on my side of the computer screen made it out to be. It was - to use the cliche - what it was: A competently produced version of "Tonight" that aired at 10. Jay's monologue was as it was ever thus - 28 jokes, 13 minutes, almost all topical; commercial break, first guest, etc.

2.) The problem wasn't Jay. The problem was the time period.

3.) Never ever ever (never) believe network executives when they tell you something is the Second Coming. Even they don't believe it. Why should you?

4.) Network executives are much more like TV critics than even TV critics care to admit - that is, they get more things wrong than they do right (or chartiably, they get as many things wrong as they do right.)

5.) "The Jay Leno Show" was an insurance policy. Readers of this blog know my theory on this and I will restate again - that Jay at 10 was a shrewd ploy just in case Conan's "Tonight Show" didn't work. Keep Jay in the house just in case. The suits were willing to get napalmed by the press if Conan's numbers failed and Jay was sent back to 11:35. I also believe Jay always knew at least intuitively that this was the general plan. Believe me - these guys aren't as dumb as they look. In fact, poor Conan may be the one who didn't read this.

6.) Why didn't the press figure this out? Haven't you learned by now, reader, we never figure out anything? We are stenographers - we write what the networks tell us and then when it all goes to ka-flooey, we say (in unision) - "we told you this was going to happen." See. I just did.

 7.) Jay probably won't be hurt by this debacle. In fact, I predict he'll be back at number one by summer. If he gets just 4 million viewers, he's bossman again.

8.) Dave won't be hurt either. Letterman comes out of this looking like a million bucks. Imagine! The generosity of giving his rival exposure during the most viewed TV program in history. What a mensch.

9.) NBC has no idea what would happen if Jay - God forbid because I really do like him - gets hit by a bus while Jaywalking.

10.) NBC has no plan, for the future of late night, and if they tell you they do, then see #.3.

  Finally, farewell Jay. We'll see you back on the TV in March.



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