NBC is just asking for trouble 'Tonight'
You know a network's struggling when even its problems feel like reruns.
After its 2010 Leno-Conan-back-to-Leno “Tonight Show” fiasco, it's almost inconceivable NBC could bumble its way back into a similar situation. Yet here we are. If as-yet-unconfirmed (but not denied) reports are true, NBC is planning to push Jay Leno out of his “Tonight” job again and replace him with Jimmy Fallon by the fall of 2014 to stop ABC's Jimmy Kimmel from tying up the younger audience.
The move may never happen: The story was obviously leaked as a pre-emptive strike to humiliate NBC out of any such shift, a tactic that very well might work. Even so, the damage has been done, to NBC, to Leno, to “The Tonight Show” and to Fallon, who, despite his apparent innocence, is bound to be seen as a back-stabber/usurper by the loyalist members of Leno's audience. Which is still, by the way, late night's largest, even among younger viewers.
To be sure, it's not always easy to feel sympathy for Leno. Under his Wonder-Bread-bland watch, “Tonight” has gone from comic launchpad to cultural irrelevance, in large part because Leno has been too focused on protecting his own career to use the platform to help anyone else's.
But we're a nation of workers, and many of them are likely to side with the guy who has done everything his company asked of him, including winning his time slot, to be rewarded with a shove in the back. He doesn't deserve to hold the job forever. He does deserve a more graceful exit.
Yet instead, NBC stumbles into another public-relations disaster, and for Fallon, who draws fewer viewers than O'Brien did when he hosted “Late Night” and loses about the same percentage of “Tonight Show” viewers. So why would NBC think he'd do better in that slot than O'Brien when his ratings are lower, his act is similarly pitched toward the later slot's smaller crowd and lower expectations, and his experience and abilities are less?
Fallon comes across as incredibly personable, and he shines in musical-spoof moments. But he still seems ill at ease when it comes to actually interviewing guests or pulling off a monologue, and those remain the primary tasks of a “Tonight” host. Unless NBC decides it doesn't want interviews or monologues — particularly if the host might, horror of horrors, use one to poke fun at the network's ratings woes — and changes the format entirely.
Given everything else NBC has done with “Tonight” this decade, would you really be surprised?
Robert Bianco is the television writer for Gannett News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Slain St. Clair officer walked into ‘worst nightmare’ for police
- W.V. entrepreneurs offer hope as coal fades as economic engine
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- 2,200 union employees of ATI lose coverage
- 7 percent in Allegheny County allowed to carry concealed gun
- Fabregas: To pay or not to pay: Hospital’s bill for procedure or insurer’s rate?
- Steelers receiver Wheaton takes advantage of opportunity in breakout game
- Film session: Long shots dotted Steelers’ passing game
- Penguins’ reshuffled top line of Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz looks familiar