The following is an open letter to legendary comedian Jay Leno:
Dear Mr. Leno,
I hate to say it, but I knew this experiment was doomed right from the start. The G-Man had a gut feeling that ‘The Jay Leno Show” would bomb simply because NBC programming execs can’t seem to do anything right. They figured it would be a good idea to air the show a few months after you handed the reigns of “The Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien. It amounted to nothing more than an exercise in futility, and it’s because of decisions like this that NBC’s ratings are in the toilet with yesterday’s lunch.
My “G-Fans” know me as a straight-shooter, and given the fact that you work in an industry overrun with backstabbers, bullies and bullshitters, I’m sure you will appreciate a little hardcore honesty. Please listen up because the proceeding paragraphs are extremely important. Hopefully, they will help you form a decision about not only your legacy, but Johnny Carson’s as well.
The G-Man was rooting for you, and I really wanted the show to succeed. I’m sure the majority of your fans did, too. Unfortunately, what you, Kevin Eubanks and the writing team gave us was “The Tonight Show Lite”, and many are still reeling from the bitter aftertaste. You did have your moments, like the powerful interview segment with Kanye West, but it apparently became an uphill battle from that point on. The deal was done, and the NBC “suits” probably didn’t want you to deviate from the show’s format. Your hands were tied, but the viewers’ thumbs were squarely placed on the remote.
NBC hasn’t confirmed anything regarding your show, Conan O’Brien’s future, or the rumors that are circulating in Hollywood and on the Internet. The only thing they’ve said is that no decisions or announcements will be made until after the Winter Olympics in February. One rumor says that NBC is planning to move your show to the 11:30 time slot. If that happens the network will be placing you in a really jacked up position. Mr. Leno, if you accept the offer, you will technically alter "The Tonight Show’s" history, time slot and following. Is that something you would really welcome?
UPDATE: January 10, Pasadena, California - Yahoo News has reported that said Sunday that Leno's nightly prime-time show will end with the beginning of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 12.
I’m sorry, but ratings don’t lie. Conan O’Brien sucks in the current time slot, and if NBC pushes the show back an hour in favor of your show, I guarantee you that no one is going to stay up past 12:05 to watch a pale imitation of the Tonight Show! In America, you don’t mess with tradition. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a major reason why you ride Harleys, right? I really don’t know you, but I suspect you would not want to destroy Johnny Carson's legacy and would respectfully decline such an offer from NBC. In my honest opinion, that would be the right thing to do.
I just don’t’ understand the suits over at NBC. I really don’t, Mr. Leno. Even with David Letterman’s parading penis problems, he is still managing to kick Conan O’Brien’s ass in the battle for late night supremacy. If execs were really serious about reclaiming their Tonight Show fan base and number one ranking, there’s a very simple way to do it. If I were the head of NBC, I would take a page out of the master’s playbook, Johnny Carson, and rotate the host Monday through Friday. For example, Monday: Billy Crystal, Tuesday: Robin Williams, Wednesday: Whoopi Goldberg, Thursday: Jerry Seinfeld, Friday: Eddie Murphy.... ect. Show a little courage and innovation, and get rid of the idea of having a regular host.
The ratings could also be kicked up a notch by rotating actors - Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson or Denzel Washington - and musicians – Queen Latifah, Lady Gaga or the Jonas Brothers. I would imagine scores of big-name celebrities would jump at the chance to host. Here's the best part. It could be set up in a way that the public and the entertainment industry would never know who the host would be from one night to the next! It would be a complete surprise, and that would be the big hook to make people tune in each night. A move like this would likely expand the show’s creative boundaries, its demographic and completely revamp the show for a new generation.
Now, if you reach out to certain celebrities and they bitch about “pitching in” to help maintain the legacy, especially the ones that Carson introduced to America, then NBC could step in and remind them that they wouldn’t have a damn career were it not for the Tonight Show. Period! Doing the show this way would also ensure that there is a little something for everyone, instead of shoving Conan O'Brien’s brand of comedy and entertainment down America's throat. For the record, I think O'Brien is an extremely gifted writer and comedian, but the ratings have proven that his brand of schtick just doesn't work with the general public. If he truly cares about the Tonight Show and Carson’s legacy, he’d put pride and ego aside and do what’s right for the show and NBC if ratings continue to tank. You don’t force a dog to walk if its hind legs are severely broken.
Mr. Leno, I’m just a journalist/writer with a little blog that’s trying to obtain a larger fan base and creative writing opportunities. I don’t expect the suits at NBC or anyone in the entertainment industry to listen to me or take this article seriously, but they will listen to you. Therefore, I urge you to consider all that I have stated in this letter. Don’t allow yourself to be guinea pig in another failed experiment. Instead, cut a nice “walk-away” deal with the network to end your show and help save an American institution by becoming an adviser or creative consultant for NBC. If anyone is capable of giving the Tonight Show one hell of a surge in the ratings, it’s you. That’s why Carson picked you in the first place.
This letter is from the heart…and…From The G-Man.