Friday, February 7, 2014

Jay Leno's Last 'Tonight Show' - Again

Jay Leno bid goodbye to his Tonight Show, again.

When NBC last forced out Leno, in May of 2009, he had been signed to do five nights a week in prime time. He would be back in September.

This time, Leno won't be back.

Leno's audience didn't embrace Conan O'Brien when he took over the reins of The Tonight Show. That was such a mess, a lot of bad blood. It's hard to imagine Leno's audience embracing Jimmy Fallon as host. I think the audience will probably splinter off a bit, much like it did with O'Brien. The time slot and the title, Tonight Show, don't guarantee viewers.

When Leno took over for Johnny Carson, he had been a weekly guest host for years. At the end, Johnny did three new shows a week, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Jay hosted a new show on Monday and Tuesday was a "Best of Carson" rerun.

The transition was smoother because the audience had been watching Leno do the show for years. Even so, it was a bit rocky.

NBC has bent over backwards to make this latest transition as painless as possible, not wanting a repeat of the Conan debacle. Since it was announced Leno was once again being fired by NBC, Fallon and Leno have done comedy bits together, joking about the change.

For example:

Fallon has been Leno's guest a couple of times since the April 2013 announcement that Fallon would host The Tonight Show in 2014. Fallon was Leno's guest this past Monday. It's all been very congenial.

Both times, Leno didn't choose to leave his #1 show. He was forced out by NBC. That's not what happened when Johnny left. Johnny retired. Leno was fired, twice; three times, if you count his prime time show.

Leno is finished with NBC. There is no doubt. Leno saved NBC, repeatedly. He really doesn't get the respect he deserves.

Although Leno didn't choose to retire now, he's ready to leave the show. You can tell.

For the most part, I've enjoyed Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It's silly fun. It's a nice way to end the day. Late Night has always been that way, even when David Letterman hosted. The Tonight Show is different. I don't know if it's because of Johnny Carson's long shadow or what. Some of the silly, weirder material doesn't translate. We'll see.

Jimmy Fallon is a very talented guy. I'm sure he'll do well, but it will probably be a somewhat difficult adjustment at first. He has a tough act to follow. If Fallon doesn't keep the show at #1 in the ratings, some might consider his show to be another NBC mistake. That would be unfair.

Jay's final show was very nice. He was very emotional at the end, understandably. I hate goodbyes.

I'll miss Jay.

I still miss Johnny.



Jay Leno's final Tonight Show monologue - Transcript