Leno Backlash Continues; News Corp. Publication Compares Leno to Hitler


Just because Conan O'Brien retired gracefully from the Tonight Show on Friday does not mean that the war on Jay Leno is over. The Wall Street Journal published the proof yesterday in former Movieline contributor Joe Queenan's damning editorial, which alleged that Leno's reign of terror at NBC is eerily similar to Adolf Hitler's annexation of Central Europe in the 1930s. And if history has taught us anything, Queenan predicts that Leno will not stop at reclaiming the Tonight Show -- the host will try to get his grease-stained hands on NBC's entire late night line-up. All in all, an interesting essay comparing NBC's failure to one of the greatest misfortunes in world history -- even more interesting knowing that the Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp., which also happens to own the network currently trying to woo O'Brien.

This would not be the first time that a News Corp.-owned publication skewered a late night host on a rival network. When news of David Letterman's extortion scandal and interoffice affairs was uncovered in October, Murdoch's New York Post slammed the Late Show host repeatedly, even going so far as to track down the grandmother of his mistress in an assisted living facility and printing her remarks about her granddaughter's relationship with Letterman.

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal editorial, Queenan took aim at Jay Leno and NBC, the network who weakly allowed Leno to bully them into giving him back the Tonight Show, even if it meant "[stabbing] Mr. O'Brien in the back."

Jay Leno, much like Adolf Hitler, is a master of making secret demands for foreign territory and then acting like the wronged party. First he pretended that he wanted to annex only the first half-hour of Mr. O'Brien's "Tonight Show." Here he was mimicking Hitler, who insisted that he merely wanted to annex the German-speaking Sudetenland, not all of Czechoslovakia.

Then, adopting the craven British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as a role model, NBC stabbed Mr. O'Brien in the back by agreeing to let Mr. Leno reoccupy the first segment of his old "Tonight Show" slot. NBC's defense was that Mr. O'Brien had dismal ratings, and the show was a bit of a mess. But the same can be said about Czechoslovakia, a hodgepodge cobbled together after the First World War that never really got its act together.

Here's where the parallels become even more eerie. In acquiescing to Mr. Leno's sotto voce demands to annex one-half of "The Tonight Show," NBC thought it could put the whole ugly controversy to rest. Wrong. Interpreting generosity as weakness, Mr. Leno began to maneuver for complete control of "The Tonight Show." Here he was again taking his cue from der Fuhrer, manipulating his outgunned adversary into a position so humiliating he literally had no choice but to surrender. Just as Edward Beneš, president of Czechoslovakia, was forced to abandon ship once he had been betrayed by his erstwhile allies, Mr. O'Brien was forced to abdicate and cede his entire one-hour program to the man he had replaced. He did get a significantly bigger going-away present than Beneš, however.

Today, NBC--much like Chamberlain--is daft enough to believe that Mr. Leno's demands will now cease. If history is any guide, this is unlikely. After pocketing Czechoslovakia, Hitler immediately took dead aim at Poland. Using the same game plan, Mr. Leno will soon go after Jimmy Fallon, who follows "The Tonight Show," quite possibly demanding that NBC expand "Tonight" to its original 90-minute length.

Just as Hitler sought to return Germany to its prewar stature by acquiring Austria and the Sudetenland, Mr. Leno will seek to restore "The Tonight Show" to the mythical stature it enjoyed under his predecessor. Hitler wanted to be thought of as the second coming of Frederick Barbarossa. Mr. Leno wants to be thought of as the second coming of Johnny Carson. Joey Bishop might be more appropriate.

And just as Hitler made his annexation of Austria appear to be the Austrians' idea, Mr. Leno will need Mr. Fallon to invite him to assume command of the show. Perhaps NBC can offer him the same $32.5 million Mr. O'Brien got, and an extra $10 million not to kick up a fuss. At this point, who's counting?

NBC probably believes that once Mr. Leno controls both late-night television and late-late night television, his dreams of global conquest will be sated. Well, everyone knows what happened in the Danzig Corridor in 1939.

So if you're anchoring the 11 p.m. news program that precedes "The Tonight Show," don't get too comfortable. The blitzkrieg is right around the corner. And you're Poland.

· NBC Will Regret Appeasing Leno [WSJ]


  • mr biG says:

    well, something happens when you take a seriously funny guy with a biting edge, such as conan or dave out of late late night shows where they are loose, comfortable in their own skins, and aren't too worried about what other people think to be themsevles. when you put them in the earlier time slot, they get nervous because of corporate concerns,
    try to be mr. nice guy and please everyone watching, and become somewhat neutered, kind of like your pet rover's worst fear. jay was super funny when he first was on letterman's show, a cynical biker pissed off at ironic crap. dave, conan, and jay used to be themselves,
    cynical, loose, creative, super fast, and super funny. put them in the earlier time zone with a new more respectable and less offensive nature, you may not have the old hysterical funniness, but at least you've got yourself one fine bowl of neutered oatmeal.

  • Todor Pandeliev says:

    First of all, the view of history presented by the author is... how shall I put it... "creative" at best, grossly ignorant at worst:
    - Austria was not part of Germany before WWI;
    - Czechoslovakia (like Austria) was part of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empire; it was not a bad part either - far from "not getting its act together": when Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia, he DOUBLED Germany's heavy industry and the ability to ptoduce military gear;
    On the other hand:
    - Jay Leno had the Tonight Show for decades; the claim that he wanted part of what wasn't his is ridiculous; comparing him to Hitler - obscene.
    Jay Leno is infinately better than Conan at what he does; this of course is only my humble opinion (and the humble opinin of millions more, apparently).

  • Martini Shark says:

    I so cannot wait for Jay to get his revenge by pulling his hilarious "Headlines" from The Wall Street Journal instead those community papers from jerkwater townships!
    He who laughs last, Rupert!!

  • Tamar says:

    To those making unrelated comments along the lines of "Conan isn't funny rabble rabble": Your views are not new. I don't care how funny you think anyone is. Your comments do not relate to the post or add to the discussion. Stop.
    P.S. It's doubly annoying when those comments don't even bother to have semi-correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Learn to write- this is not youtube.

  • PMac says:

    I completely understand and "get" the comparison... those of you who failed to see the humor in it or "get it" are obviously very dry people and unable to appreciate a more diverse level of humor. I would assume you'll be the same people who will be watching that talentless nazi.
    Leno is playing victim and acting as if it was NBC's decision to throw Conan to the wolves, when in fact it was Leno that slithered up to NBC to ask for his show back. What kind of person does that?
    After he left the Tonight Show he was given a chance to find success with a new show... How many other hosts in the past were given that opportunity? When he failed miserably with the new show and his old tired act, instead of just accepting the fact that no one outside of humorless dried up old prunes like him, he decides to attack the new host of his old show, and used the spineless network execs to do the dirty work.
    Leno should be ashamed of himself and how low he's gone. It was bad enough we had to endure his pathetic attempt at humor, but now we have to endure his behavioral problems too. My predictionis that NBC and the new Tonight Show will sink faster than the Titanic with weights attached.

  • moosey says:

    i loved conan, and still will when he finds somewhere else to go in seven months, but this is a very strange way to show like-ness for him. A Hitler comparison? I mean he is a right foul man for doing what he did, regardless of who was currently hosting the tonight show. You dont get to leave your show, fail terribly, and then go back like nothing ever happened. Thats just bad manners and professionalism. You would think Jay's been in show business for long enough to now thats not how life works, he should have just retired and played in his garage with all his cars. A hitler comparison is out there. We are talking about 60 minutes of comedy behind a desk, not missles and murder. NBC is going to get bad ratings for this again, so i guess we'll see where it ends up. Im assuming that the people who still like jay leno are older and "grew" with him in show business, there are as many "kids" and people who can actually take a joke to support conan that makes this about equal. The thing is, in doing what he did, he angered a lot of celebrities, which is kinda the whole deal behind these shows..yea they may walk the streets, do 5 minutes of stand up to open the show but its always..we have a great show tonight we have this person and and this person along with musical quest. you cant have a show with no one on it.

  • Luther Vaugh says:

    is wishing that she could throw magic dust on her problems and make them disappear! Kind of like a wizard...or a crack addict!