Jay Leno-The real story behind his 1/18/10 statement

In this whole late night mess, through all the jokes and the coverage, it can get hard to figure out what is actually going on. Allow me to provide you with Jay Leno’s side of the story, taken from the 1/18 Jay Leno show:

Now, Allow me to give you the REAL story

For the most part, Leno tells the story of what happened, with his own spin and not mention of the ridiculous irony considering when he took over the tonight show back in 1992. Let me address a few of his statements:

Leno referencing 2004: ‘Well, I’ve been No. 1 for 12 years.’

Unless this is a mistake from Leno, this is not accurate. Leno had low ratings and was beaten by Letterman during the first 3 years of his run. It wasn’t until Hugh Grant showed up in 1995 after being arrested for seeing a prostitute, to give an interview on the Tonight show, where Leno began winning the late night war.

‘Okay. How about until I fall to No. 2, then you fire me?’

There was no “Firing.” Leno had renewed his contract earlier in 2004, which lasted until 2009. 6 months later, Conan O’brien signed a deal which gave him the tonight Show in 2009, Leno simply didn’t have his contract renewed.

‘No, we made this decision.’ I said, ‘That’s fine.’…‘I’ll retire, just to avoid what happened the last time.’

“Last time” being when the Tonight Show’s rightful successor David Letterman, gets screwed over by NBC’s decision to go with Leno instead-even Johnny Carson preferred Letterman, according to Peter Lassally, former producer of both Carson’s and Letterman’s shows.

He did say that was fine-and went on to not complain, not say NBC fired him, but indeed to RETIRE in this classy statement:

Don’t blame Conan O’Brien.

Oh, more on this later

So time goes by, and we stay No. 1 up until the day we leave

Which is how Leno said he wanted to retire in 2004

but I’m leaving before my contract is out. About six to eight months early. So before I could go anywhere else — I would be at least a year or 18 months before I could go and do a show somewhere else

Here’s where things get interesting. On September 27th, 2004, Jay Leno announced he’s leaving the Tonight Show. He says in his statement about renewing his contract, that “About 6 months ago…(NBC) Would like to do 5 more years” so that puts it around March of 04. The last episode of “The tonight Show with Jay Leno” was may 29th 2009. Which sounds right around the time his contract would run out. in Leno’s statement from last night, 2010 “I’m leaving before my contract is out. About six to eight months early” …Something doesn’t add up there. Assuming The contract ran out, when the show went off the air, which makes more sense, Leno would have still had a no compete clause, which is what he’s referring to, having to wait a year to 18 months. If It let out in May, then he’d only have to wait anywhere from 4 months to a year. And considering it took 4 months to get Leno’s new show ready, with the same staff and the same lot, the no compete clause would only effect anywhere from 8 months to nothing. So a worst case scenario 8 months off the air is what Leno is complaining about. And even if it was a year to 18 months, it shows tremendous disrespect to “retire” only to threaten competition against the Tonight show if NBC didn’t keep Leno around. The no compete clause was there when Leno signed in in 04. He was given a 5 year head start to make plans. The Tonight show is the Tonight Show, no the Jay Leno show. Jay Leno is driving Johnny Carson’s bus, it’s Conan O’Brien’s turn to drive it, that’s not for Leno to decide. So instead of “Passing the Torch,” Leno takes his version of the Tonight show, and presumably most it’s viewers, to 10:00. Leno takes away a huge Drama lead in O’Brien would have had, as Leno had Seinfeld, ER, Cheers, Friends etc. over his tenure as no.1 on the number 1 network. O’Brien gets Summer reruns, then a prime time talk show in drama filled competition as a lead in on the number 4 network.

Also knowing, according to Leno from the execs: Now for the first four or five months against original shows like CSI, you’ll get killed, but in the spring and summer when the reruns come, that’s when you’ll pick up.’

So going in, NBC, and Leno, knew O’Brien would have a terrible lead in, also not mentioning the fact that the show he’s taken over had basically moved to 10 pm.

“Four months go by; we don’t make it. Meanwhile, Conan’s show during the summer — we’re not on — was not doing well. The great hope was that we would help him. Well, we didn’t help him any, okay. They come and go, ‘This show isn’t working. We want to let you go.’ ‘Can you let me out of my contract?’ ‘No, you’re still a valuable asset to this company.’ ‘How valuable can I be? You fired me twice…”The affiliates are the ones that own the TV stations. They’re the ones that sort of make the decisions; they’re not happy with your performance and Conan is not doing well at 11:30. I said, ‘What’s your idea?’ They said, ‘Well, look, how about you do a half-hour show at 11:30?’ Now, where I come from, when your boss gives you a job and you don’t do it well… I think we did a good job here, but we didn’t’ get the ratings, so you get humbled. I said, ‘Okay, I’m not crazy about doing a half hour, but okay. What do you want to do with Conan?’ ‘We’ll put him on at midnight, or 12:05, keeps The Tonight Show, does all that, he gets the whole hour.’ I said, ‘Okay. You think Conan will go for that?’ ‘Yes, yes. [laughter from the audience] Almost guarantee you.’ I said okay.”

Interesting statement. First off, Conan wasn’t doing well, he had just started. Leno had 3 years to find his groove, O’Brien had 7 months with no lead in. If, Johnny Carson, had a talk show on at 10pm before Leno, Leno would be out of Show business. He mentions he gets fired twice. The first time, was the contract expiring. The second, is when he supposedly gets 2 years guaranteed. So if they really “fired” him, it would be a breech of contract, and the no compete clause would be void. If they simply wanted to move his time slot, then Leno wouldn’t have to agree to anything, but he clearly states he had to accept the 11:35 time slot. You also notice, how he says “Okay” to the deal, twice, before asking how Conan will feel about this, to the NBC exec, instead of directly asking O’Brien. He then accepts the deal, presumably signing a contract.

“Next thing I see, Conan has a story in the paper saying he doesn’t want to do that. They come back to me and they say, ‘If he decides to walk and doesn’t want to do it, do you want the show back?’ I go, ‘Yeah, I’ll take the show back. If that’s what he wants to do. This way, we keep our people working, fine.’ So that’s pretty much where we are. It looks like we might be back at 11:30; I’m not sure. I don’t know. [applause] I don’t know. But through all of this — through all of this, Conan O’Brien has been a gentleman. He’s a good guy. I have no animosity towards him. This is all business.

“I go, ‘Yeah, I’ll take the show back. If that’s what he wants to do. ” If that’s what he wants to do? You signed the contract Leno. You forced his hand in this. You are the one who sabotaged his show by taking your show to 10:00. You are the one who signed a deal pushing 3 other late night hosts back, including the famous Tonight show, and you don’t think to ask anyone or think it over. And you have the audacity to casually say “Oh sure, I’ll take it back. If that’s what he wants” And the line “This is all business.” Please. You passed the Torch to O’Brien, he uprooted his family and his entire staff from New York to L.A., and you go along with the whole Screw job on O’Brien, chalking it up to “Just business.”

If you don’t get the ratings, they take you off the air.

Oh really? So you didn’t get ratings for the first 3 years. They actually threatened to take the show From Leno and give it to David letterman, in this article: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/23/arts/jay-leno-criticizes-nbc-on-tonight-cliffhanger.html?pagewanted=1

Leno Complained his ass off about this. And now that he’s the benefactor it’s “Just business.

Jay Leno is officially a corporate backstabbing jerk. I lost respect for Leno years ago when he dumbed down the show, but his 2004 statement seemed like a fitting end. Now he’s done everything he “Said” he didn’t want to do, and is acting like it’s none of his fault. This statement is nothing but damage control, a message to his audience who is unaware of everything listed above. Especially with the Phrase “Don’t blame Conan” As if Conan is the one to blame. Leno is clearly trying to play the victim and it’s sad that so far it’s working with some viewers and news outlets picking up this story. It’s truly truly sad that you can get by just by BSing your way through life because your following will believe you. Jay Leno has a dumbed down show, and a dumbed down audience, and Jay knows it all through it all. He could have gone out, on top and a respected host of the Tonight Show, even given what he did to David Letterman. Now, it’s De Ja Vu all over again, only on a much bigger scale, and Jay Leno will go down as nothing but a corporate, sellout, scumbag. And hopefully, the ones educated on this travesty will not let this go


~ by Adam Hughes on January 18, 2010.

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