Comic Jay Leno has opened up concerning the notorious “Tonight Present” shake-up and subsequent burn he inflicted on short-lived host Conan O’Brien.
Leno, who hosted “The Tonight Present” for 17 years earlier than departing for the primary time in 2009then unexpectedly returned for one more stint the next yr, denied Sunday that he had “intentionally sabotaged” his 10 pm “The Jay Leno Present” so he may return to NBC’s 11:30 pm providing.
For the report:
3:33 pm Aug. 2, 2022Jay Leno returned to “The Tonight Present” in 2010, not in 2019 as beforehand said.
The Emmy Award winner’s schedule swap infamously ousted his first “Tonight Present” successor, O’Brien, and led to the “Late Evening” comic and former “Saturday Evening Stay” author taking his skills over to TBS. O’Brien had labored on the Peacock community in some capability since 1993.
However “The Jay Leno Present” was an experiment by NBC to tackle the vastly costly broadcast-network dramas within the 10 o’clock hour for a fraction of the manufacturing price, Leno advised Invoice Maher on Sunday’s episode of “Membership Random Podcast.” It simply didn’t pan out as deliberate.
“I used to be [hearing]’Oh, Leno intentionally sabotaged his present to attempt to get “The Tonight Present” [back],’” mentioned Leno, 72. “No, that doesn’t work. It doesn’t work that manner. You attempt to do the most effective you may and it didn’t work.”
Plenty of community government back-and-forth ensued. Leno mentioned NBC supplied him a return to the 11:30 time slot however he mentioned he “didn’t need to undergo this once more,” particularly if it meant bumping O’Brien to the midnight slot — a proposal that meant Leno would do a half-hour present at 11:30 pm as an alternative of his earlier one-hour present.
“I mentioned, ‘Discuss to Conan. If he’ll go to 12, I’ll do a half-hour. Simply do a monologue and one visitor. OK.’ And naturally Conan didn’t need to do this. That’s when he wrote the letter after which they put me again in and we turned No. 1 [in the ratings] once more.”
Maher requested Leno why he didn’t simply go to a rival community as an alternative of sticking round at NBC after basically being “fired twice for being No. 1.”
“I’m fairly loyal,” Leno mentioned. “You realize, typically the czar you might have is healthier than the one you’re going to get. And right here’s the factor, then you might have your outdated group capturing at you as properly. I simply figured, let’s simply play this out and see what occurs. This all occurred pretty shortly. ,
Leno mentioned that he was getting provides from ABC and referred to as up the host of “Jimmy Kimmel Stay!” to debate what his arrival at that community may imply for Kimmel. That transfer didn’t pan out both, and Leno by no means adopted up. That drama turned public too.
“I suppose I ought to have referred to as Jimmy and defined to him once more, however I didn’t,” Leno mentioned. “I don’t know why I didn’t. I simply didn’t. I assumed he most likely would determine it out. However I feel perhaps he was harm by that, and I apologized to him for that.”
Leno, in fact, returned to “The Tonight Present” stage in 2010 after O’Brien left. He in the end bid farewell to the late-night establishment for good in February 2014, “Saturday Evening Stay” star Jimmy Fallon changed him and stays the present host. O’Brien went on to host “Conan” on TBS, the place it ran for 11 seasons earlier than concluding final yr, In a 2010 “60 Minutes” interview, O’Brien mentioned he “wouldn’t have achieved” what Leno did if the roles had been reversed.
However Leno, who at the moment hosts the syndicated sport present “You Guess Your Life,” didn’t appear fazed on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t change something ’trigger all of it labored out positive,” he advised Maher. “However at the least I rose and fell by my very own hand versus different individuals shifting issues round.”
“They felled you for the crime of being No. 1,” Maher mentioned, astonished that NBC didn’t milk its “money cow” for so long as it may.
Leno did loads of name-dropping through the podcast and didn’t draw back from the opposite notorious late-night ouster he was concerned in: Taking on “The Tonight Present” from Johnny Carson quite than letting inheritor obvious David Letterman get the gig. (Letterman left NBC over the transfer to host the competing late-night sequence “The Late Present” on CBS from 1993 to 2015,
“Dave [Letterman] by no means had ‘The Tonight Present,’” Leno mentioned, to Maher’s disbelief. “No. Right here’s the scenario. … Dave was an enormous hit at 12:30, large. Johnny was an enormous hit at 11:30. After I began subbing for Johnny, I used to be fortunate sufficient to have the ability to preserve Johnny’s rankings. So with me there that they had successful at 11:30 and successful at 12:30. And NBC didn’t need to sacrifice one hit.
“In the event that they moved Letterman down, I’d go to CBS, I’d simply go some other place, after which they might have a large open spot. Plus, there have been a variety of executives that didn’t like Dave.”
Leno mentioned that shifting Letterman down on the schedule “wouldn’t have gained them something.”