Leno vs. Conan: What We've Learned
Following Jay Leno's much-anticipated statement on ConanGate (the real one, this time!) last night and the presumably imminent announcement that a deal has been reached to restore Leno to his now thoroughly tarnished Tonight Show throne and release O'Brien from his NBC captivity, it seems that we've finally reached the end of the Great Late Night Wars of 2010. As contractual gag-orders kick in and hostilities return to a low boil, the relative quiet of this post-armistice moment gives us a chance to reflect on the unfortunate events of this turbulent couple of weeks, when Conan emerged as our noble martyr, Leno a Machiavellian mastermind, and NBC boss Jeff Zucker a relentlessly upward-failing boob. After the jump, we try to make some sense of it all as we present What We've Learned from this fiasco:
We'll Happily Take Sides When Two Millionaires Fight
Sure, we realize that when we step back to dispassionately survey the late-night chaos unfolding before us, what he have is a really rich guy squabbling with an absurdly rich guy over who gets paid an eight-figure salary to sit behind a desk at 11:35 pm each night. Indeed, the situation is ridiculous. But high-stakes bloodsport is the most enthralling kind, and it's been nothing short of mesmerizing to watch O'Brien, knowing he's probably lost before he even had a chance to take a swing, step into a circle of screaming spectators clutching handfuls of some filthy-looking foreign currency, strip to the waist to reveal a torso full of Irish gang tattoos, and land blow after blow upon the iron chin of the lumbering, heavily favored opponent, who, staggered by the wiry scrapper's surprising ferocity, tosses some kind of poison powder in his eyes, blinding the doomed underdog just long enough to slip a well-concealed shiv between his ribs. Ugh, there we go with the brawl fantasies again. See how easy it is to get drawn back in? Especially when one of the combatants is someone who's made you laugh for 17 years, and the other one cuts together clips of tourists who think the Boston Tea Party is a chain of specialty tea shops in Massachusetts.
Jay Leno's The Real Victim In This Whole Mess
Last night, Leno finally broke his silence on the controversy rocking late-night TV, recounting for the world the harrowing tale of his meetings with thuggish NBC executives hell-bent on returning him to the Tonight Show gig he desperately wanted to leave behind to spend the rest of his days tending to a hangarful of needy, classic automobiles . "You fired me twice! How valuable can I be?" cried the helpless host as his brutalizers informed him they were ready to pay Conan O'Brien, intractable in his now-inconvenient time slot demands, $30 million to clear the way for Leno's perpetual servitude, during which he will spend the rest of his days joylessly reading the typo-riddled classified ads of small-town newspapers to an audience with a bottomless appetite for proofreading-related guffaws. More disturbing still was when Leno, choking back tears, revealed that as he recited his now-infamous "passing the torch to Conan" speech back in 2004, Jeff Zucker was just off-camera, holding the oil-splattered, freshly severed door handle of his beloved 1967 Maserati Ghalbi, a clear threat that his fleet would get it if he tried to pull any funny business, like communicating his distress to home viewers in a series of coded blinks.
Some five years later, the truth has finally come out, and Leno is clearly deserving of our sympathy. None of this was his idea; he's just a guy caught up in the cruel whims of bottom-line-obsessed forces beyond his control.
Pages: 1 2