It all began on January 7, when a website reported that NBC had canceled The Jay Leno Show.
It ended on January 22, with Conan O’Brien leaving The Tonight Show.
Welcome to The Late Shift 2: The Screwjob Continues. Based on New York Times writer Bill Carter’s book (and later HBO movie), this is a sequel to the mid 1990s drama where David Letterman was screwed over for The Tonight Show gig by NBC – and some comic named Jay Leno – whose claim to fame was being a Doritos pitchman – and his executive producer Helen Kushnick (who nearly lost the job for Leno because of her outrageous demands and unprofessional demeanor.)
As you know by now, NBC’s experiment with The Jay Leno Show in primetime was a whopping failure (and one yours truly actually thought would work… eep) The effort to cut costs and keep Leno from jumping to another network at the same time didn’t work, and NBC was angering its affiliates because Leno was not delivering an audience to their late local newscasts, which accounts for up to 40 percent of a station’s revenues.
One such station (WHDH in Boston) told NBC it was going to pre-empt the show for local news. When the network threatened to yank the station’s affiliation (even threatening to move it to a subchannel of a Telemunedo station), WHDH backed down.
But with Leno’s ratings sucking fecal water – and hurting the affiliates’ 11 p.m. / 10 p.m. newscasts, a widespread revolt was being organized and all of this began to unravel. And so on January 7, NBC decided to cancel The Jay Leno Show, thus ending what has to be considered the biggest programming blunder in television history.
But instead of cutting Leno loose, the geniuses at the network decided to put him on at 11:35 p.m./10:35 p.m. Central for a half-hour, pushing The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien – the program he inherited from Leno - back a half-hour into a lower HUT (homes-using-television) level time period. The Jimmy Fallon Show would be pushed to 1:05 a.m. ET. The network had their plan set.
But there was one problem: Conan O’Brien did not go along with it. O’Brien stated that moving The Tonight Show to midnight Eastern Time would “seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05(a.m., ET) simply isn’t the Tonight Show.
And as a result, NBC gave Leno back The Tonight Show, and dumped O’Brien, resulting in a massive PR nightmare for ratings-challenged for the network, who was already in fourth place in prime-time. NBC became a target by late-night comedians including Letterman, who took no prisoners given the situation he was put in by NBC before, and Jimmy Kimmel, who went on Leno’s show 10 @10 segment and told him to “leave our shows alone”.
O’Brien received a huge severance from NBC, and his final show drew more than 10 million viewers. But there is more here that meets the eye here.
It is clear Conan O’Brien got screwed by NBC and Leno. Yes, screwing over – the hottest trend in America right now. Here’s recent evidence submitted for your approval… R&B singer Mya Harrison was screwed over by the judges in the final round of Dancing With The Stars and lost to Donny Osmond at the end… Russell Hantz – the best player on Survivor this past season… was screwed over by the jury and gave it to an undeserving Natalie White… and for you old-school fans out there, Bret Hart was screwed over by Vince McMahon and the WWE in the infamous Montreal Screwjob. And now Conan O’Brien is now the latest member of The Screwed Over Club.
While yours truly have to admit O’Brien’s Tonight Show was struggling in the ratings, NBC should have given him more time to grow and cut Leno loose after his prime-time show tanked. Seven months? Hell, most new syndicated shows get two years to prove themselves nowadays. When Leno took over for Johnny Carson, it took him three years for him to gain traction (thanks in part to the O.J. Simpson trial.)
So how did The Late Shift 2: The Screwjob Continues come to fruition? In 2004, NBC executives concocted a scheme in which Jay Leno would relinquish Tonight to O’Brien in 2009, and he agreed to it. Watch this clip and see for yourself:
And in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, Leno admitted he told “a little white lie” that he wanted to give up Tonight to Conan O’Brien. In the hour-long lie-a-thon, Leno took another shot at O'Brien for screwing up the franchise.
And so what is Leno's punishment? Well, Leno the Liar gets the 11:35 p.m. time slot back while he and NBC executives throw O’ Brien under the bus. And those fights Leno the Liar said he did not want to happen again? Yeah… right, we believe you. And to show you how much class this jackass has, he was lobbing jokes at Letterman about the recent intern scandal he endured as a response to his reaction to the situation. Wow, what a dick. You just wonder what talk show Leno the Liar wants to take away next… could he venture into daytime? No wonder Martha Stewart moved her show to cable!
As the drama unfolded, you have to sit back and marvel at how NBC has been run into the ground by court jester Jeff Zucker, Ben “Party All The Time” Silverman, Angela Bromstead, and the rest of these jerks. These idiots wouldn’t even know how to run a Harold’s Chicken Shack let alone a major broadcast network (and if they did, it would certainly burn down to the ground.) And Comcast’s planned takeover of NBC will matters worse, as evidenced by their constant cable and internet outages.
Then there’s NBC Universal Sports honcho Dick Ebersol, who ripped into both Letterman and O’Brien and their jokes about NBC and Leno the Liar, saying it was “ professional jealousy and chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings.” Why the thin skin Ebersol? Is it because you let baseball and pro basketball go to other networks because your network was too damn cheap to pay for it? But you spend and spend on the Olympics and now they’re not making money for NBC. Since you are so good at giving advice, why don’t you give some to the Bears? They certainly could use another idiot. If Letterman and O’Brien are “chicken-hearted” and “gutless”, then you are nothing but chicken shit.
So, what’s the lesson after observing this mess? You can be smart, work hard, and earn your spot in life – only to have greedy, incompetent, lying, scheming, shucking and jiving dipshits take it away from you just like that. In short, its called being “screwed over”. It’s a lesson you won’t learn in school.