Leno (Finally) Says Goodbye to “Late Night”
By M.J. Wilde, the TV Queen
It’s a big boo-hoo and buh-bye to Jay Leno as he takes his final bow as host of “The Tonight Show” or “The Late Show That Would Not Die!” Gaaaaahhhh. His guests on tonight’s show include legendary comic actor Billy Crystal—who was his first guest when he took over for Johnny Carson in 1992—and country music star Garth Brooks.
Well, well, well. Just as the TV Queen predicted. This travesty did not last long. What? You say 23 years is a long, long time? Ha! That’s a drop in the bucket. I’ve had a stalker for 30 years, and I’m still waiting for him to make his first move. And I’ll be ready, too. Twenty-three years is nothing.
Yeah, back in ’92 I was one of the genius observers who said, “Jay Leno take over for Carson? No way, it should be David Letterman!” You kids and your Twilight battles with your sweaty silliness over Edward vs. Jacob. You have no idea what real war is like. I was there, baby. “The Late Night Wars.” It was not pretty. Especially the TV movie that sprang from its ridiculous loins, HBO’s The Late Shift. (Google it. Trash TV never got any better.)
That’s why I just cannot wait to see the infectiously sweet, multitalented, joyous, spirited musical mutant Jimmy Fallon take over “Tonight” come Feb. 17. His first guests will be Will Smith and U2. Whoo! Smell that? It’s fresh air! Oh, sorry, I digress.
It isn’t that I didn’t like Jay Leno. Quite the contrary. I loved Jay Leno. As a comic. When he was a stand-up comedian, he killed. He was observational and could riff on the edge with the best of ’em. And he worked clean—like a sniper with one-liners, he left ’em laying in the aisles, but there was no blood on the floor. Looking back maybe that was the first sign he would be tempted by the money piling up in the middle-of-the-road that led to “The Tonight Show.” Who wouldn’t be? So the show went from the great Carson’s witty, raconteurish hands to Leno, who quickly tucked in the edges and settled in for a 23-year-long coma that offered blah-blah, a few giggles but really, not a whole lot to shout about.
The fact is Leno has worked hard to keep the show high in the ratings, and he has continued to make NBC kagillions of dollars. (That’s American kagillions: roughly $30 to $50 million a year.) Though you’d think the way they’ve treated him on occasion—take their badly mishandled removal of Leno and then reinstatement over Conan O'Brien in 2010 as just one example—he’d be bitter and lose it and kick Kim Kardashian in public or something. I mean, I wanna kick Kim, and NBC has done nothing to me. (I kid Kim, ’cause I hate Kim.) Somewhere there must be a bust of Leno’s lantern-jawed visage with its brains exploding all over a wall.
Don’t worry: Jay will be fine. A lot of those kagillions are his, plus it’s been reported NBC is giving Jay $15 million just to piss off, er ... retire early. He’s got his wife of 33 years at his side and an airplane hangar full of collectible cars with which to tinker. And he says he’s going to spend more time on the road doing what I’ve always thought was his true calling: stand-up. You go, Jay. Please. Go. Really. We’ll be fine. Jimmy will be here. Probably until we’re all dead. Sure. Go. For the love all things holy—go!
And so we come to the end of another “Late Night” era. I know I speak for all the TV babies out there when I say, “Meh.”
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