How nice is Jay Leno? So nice that everyone wants to shake his hand. Leno bounded onto the “Tonight Show” stage last night to a massive ovation, crowds swarming to commemorate his last night as host. He smiled and waved, but he looked eager to start his monologue, already.
By all accounts, Leno loves the lengthy monologues that open his show; he remained a stand-up comic, traveling the country, even after becoming the “Tonight Show” host 17 years ago. In a nod to his itinerant life as an entertainer, he asked fellow Bay Stater James Taylor to play “Sweet Baby James” last night; Leno said the song reminded him of leaving Boston for Los Angeles at the start of his career.
Last night, Leno stuck to his rat-a-tat joking style, throwing out a string of punchlines along the lines of “I’m clearing out my office today, I find O.J.’s knife. I had it the whole time.” It was in keeping with his low-key farewell this past week; his main nods to his departure have been clip packages of highlights from the past 17 years.
Last night’s show included a compilation of “Jaywalking” man-on-the-street interviews, in which Leno takes to the streets with a microphone to demonstrate the ignorance of the common man. They were perhaps the least imaginative of all of Leno’s sketches over the years. And yet they were still funny. That’s probably the secret to Leno’s staying power and his ratings success. He didn’t always make you think, but he usually made you laugh.
It’s a testament to Leno’s relentless effort and his stand-up-comic energy that an awkward-looking guy from Andover with a prominent chin could helm a show for so many years, and lead in the ratings for nearly a decade. (He inherited a number-one show and leaves a number-one show, he noted last night, "which means I get my security deposit back.") He has hosted "The Tonight Show" for so long that it’s jarring to see the old clips of him from the Simpson-trial days, with a bushy head of salt-and-pepper hair. “When I started this show,” he joked, “my hair was black and the president was white.”
It was a safe, respectful joke – another staple of Leno’s tenure. He might have skewered Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton at every opportunity, but even his sharpest barbs had a nice-guy sheen. Last night, Leno stayed sweet, paying homage to classic comedian Rodney Dangerfield, then inviting out his final guest for the evening, "Tonight Show" host-to-be Conan O’Brien. He called his successor "a terrific guy," praised his writing skills, and let O’Brien preview one of his upcoming "Tonight Show" sketches.
It’s easy to be gracious if you’re happy with your fate, and Leno seems satisfied with the eleventh-hour deal NBC gave him, to stay with the network and host a weekly primetime show this fall. “I’m going to a secluded spot where no one can find me: NBC primetime,” he said.
But he ended on a note of selflessness, thanking his large and stable staff, talking about the number of marriages that have taken place among his staff, musing aloud about how many kids had been born of “Tonight Show” employees. A curtain lifted to show the answer: 68 in all, who stood waving to the audience with Leno’s encouragement. He eventually lay down in front of them and waved. It’s hard to imagine Letterman doing that.
It was a surprisingly sweet moment, a lovely way to end an era. And it offered another glimpse into why Leno is so even-keeled. He’s a nice guy, and he knows what really matters.
Source: Viewer Discretion – Posted by Joanna Weiss May 29, 2009 11:48 PM
As for NBC moving Jay, the number nighttime talk show host out of the Tonight Show Host before he decided to go on this own… shame on them!! jay should have been allowed to stay as along as he wanted and decide when he wanted to pass the baton… just like his predecessor Johnny Carson. Jay missed his first night of work in 17-years about a month ago when he was hospitalized for observation. He was back on the job the next. So much for loyalty.
NBC management and management of their parent company GE who will using NBC and MSNBC to promote their own liberal agenda as well as self serving business agenda are a scary bunch… and obviously not a loyal bunch. They offered him the present deal after realizing that they may have made a mistake and then worried that another network or cable might scoop him up, as competition to Conan.
Let us all root for and support Jay in his new endeavor… even if it means watching NBC, who doesn’t deserve the support!! M~
Where Is Leno Going? To Prime Time, on NBC
By BILL CARTER
Published: December 8, 2008
Paul Drinkwater/NBC, via Associated Press
Tonight show host Jay Leno gave his monologue in January.
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
The network will announce Tuesday that Mr. Leno’s new show will appear at 10 o’clock each weeknight in a format similar to “The Tonight Show,” which he has hosted since 1992.
Five years ago NBC announced that it would hand the job of host of that franchise show to Conan O’Brien in May 2009. Since then the network has maneuvered to try to keep Mr. Leno, who continues to be the late-night ratings leader, fearing that he could leave and start a new late-night show on a competitor’s network. “The Tonight Show” is seen at 11:35 weeknights.
Mr. Leno, 58, was known to have suitors, including ABC, the Fox network and the Sony television studio. But he was apparently persuaded to stay at NBC after aggressive personal wooing by Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric.
Retaining Mr. Leno will undoubtedly be seen as a coup for Mr. Zucker, who has faced some serious questions about the wisdom of guaranteeing “The Tonight Show” to Mr. O’Brien and possibly losing Mr. Leno to another network.
Details of Mr. Leno’s agreement and the new show were provided by NBC executives who were briefed on the matter and who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the project until the network made its announcement.
The new show, which will begin next fall, is expected to be set in Mr. Leno’s longtime studio in Burbank, Calif. Mr. Leno is expected to retain many of the most popular elements of his “Tonight Show,” including his monologue and bits like “Headlines” and “Jay Walking.” One “Tonight Show” staff member said the new program would not be a variety show.
Mr. O’Brien, currently the host of NBC’s “Late Night,” will move “The Tonight Show” to a new studio on the NBC Universal lot in Universal City, Calif., in May. Mr. Leno, who is known to want to work as much as possible, would then miss only three months on the air, and would use that time to prepare his new show.
An executive involved in the discussions with Mr. Leno said that Mr. Leno finally came around to the idea that the television business had changed and a show like his could be a success in prime time.
Running the same show in prime time five nights a week would be a novelty for a broadcast network. Such so-called stripped shows have been a staple of daytime broadcasting.
The offer of a weeknight prime-time show is one that Mr. Zucker has favored for some time. In 2002, when David Letterman, Mr. Leno’s competitor at CBS, was contemplating whether to renew his contract, Mr. Zucker offered him a show at 8 o’clock weeknights. He turned it down.
Executives involved in the decision said Monday that because ratings have decreased and costs are becoming more critical, NBC could reap an enormous financial benefit from this move.
Though Mr. Leno will command an enormous salary, probably more than $30 million a year, the cost of his show will be a fraction of what a network pays for dramas at 10 p.m. Those average about $3 million an episode. That adds up to $15 million a week to fill the 10 p.m. hour. Mr. Leno’s show is expected to cost less than $2 million a week.
In addition, NBC will get more weeks of original programming. Network dramas typically make 22 to 24 episodes a year. Under this deal, the executives involved in the discussions said, Mr. Leno will perform 46 weeks a year.
That cost differential will probably be enough for NBC to absorb any fall in ratings from its current slate of dramas. Mr. Leno has averaged 4.8 million viewers for his show this year, with a rating of 1.3, or 1.7 million people, in the category of viewers ages 18 to 49, which most advertisers favor.
Few shows now at 10 p.m. could be considered hits. They include “CSI: Miami,” and “CSI: New York” on CBS and “Law & Order SVU” and “E.R.” on NBC. “E.R.” is about the leave the air. “SVU” will probably move to 9 p.m. next fall.
There have been no new hits at 10 p.m. on any network in almost four years; ratings for shows in that time slot continue to fall.
That does not mean that either the network or Mr. Leno has no risk in the move. Mr. Leno’s shows tend to fare best in their first half hour; if they were to decline too much in the second half hour, NBC’s affiliated stations would see their news shows adversely affected. And there may be some question about whether Mr. Leno’s show at 10 might diminish the stature of Mr. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” at 11:35.
But Peter Lassally, the longtime late-night producer of shows starring Johnny Carson, Mr. Letterman and now Craig Ferguson, said that NBC came to Mr. Carson in the late 1980s with a similar idea, but that Mr. Carson turned it down.
“It’s all different now,” Mr. Lassally said. “The economic factors have changed so much it makes complete sense for NBC to try this.”
On Monday Mr. Zucker suggested at a news conference in New York that in the future networks might have to cut back the hours of prime-time programming. The program with Mr. Leno would effectively cut the number of hours NBC needed to fill each week from 22 to 17.
Mr. Leno had no comment. NBC executives also declined to comment. The network is expected to announce the deal with Mr. Leno in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
- Watch Jay’s Last Episode and Other Last Week Shows
- NBC Previews ‘The Jay Leno Show’ – http://tvdecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/04/nbc-previews-the-jay-leno-show/
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