×

Opinion: Jay Leno for Life!

Not to tell NBC its business, but here’s some free advice to use the next time someone runs one of those quarterly stories saying the network is thinking about succession plans for Jay Leno.

Issue the following statement: “We have no plans to replace Jay Leno until A) Jay decides to retire himself or B) some higher power retires him. Think of Jay as a dictator for life. If you haven’t noticed, we have some other problems to deal with right now. And by the way, have you asked CBS about David Letterman? Because last we checked, he’s a few years older than Jay.”

Granted, I understand the whole demo thing, and the concern about ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel making inroads in latenight. But after having been burned on latenight-related succession stories so many times over the last 20 years, if there’s even a kernel of truth to the recurring rumors, I’m starting to think NBC desperately needs someone to create a new History Channel that actually covers history.

Whatever Leno’s failings — commercially or creatively — he seems to be the least of NBC’s problems. Moreover, the network’s primetime woes (and lest anyone forget, slippage in the morning race) can’t be helping funnel viewers in “The Tonight Show’s” direction.

NBC officials would also be foolish to assume Jimmy Fallon will solve the challenge they faced when Conan O’Brien slid into the latenight slot. Yes, he might bring a younger audience skew to the time period, but odds are a lot of the older viewers who have been watching Leno won’t feel obligated to hang around. Frankly, it might be time for everyone in latenight to start pressuring the sales department to figure out how to sell the audience you have, instead of tackling on another baton pass while trying to juggle so many other balls at once.

The rationale for pushing a change based on fear of Kimmel’s toehold is equally questionable. Because the revolving door in latenight TV turns so infrequently (they pick Popes about as often), any newcomer to the 11:35 p.m. slot will get a look and some sampling. Will Kimmel really establish such a lock on the latenight audience a rival would be unable to compete? I sincerely doubt that.

Finally, there’s the weirdness of the Leno-Letterman relationship, and the question of who will ultimately blink first. Installing your guy as dictator for life would shift the focus elsewhere.

Leno has made pretty clear he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to go rest on his laurels. So unless NBC wants to again face the prospect of him turning up somewhere else (even if it’s just AARP Network — or CNN), they had better be sure he’s completely on board with any proposed “retirement.”

Since conservatives know a little something about hanging on the past, you might even borrow one of their old slogans: Leno now, Leno tomorrow, Leno forever. Or at least, until he decides it’s time to hang up the gloves.

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content