Keith versus the Meme: Defending Jay Leno

Look, let’s get one thing straight: I am a Conan O’Brien fan.  This doesn’t mean that I dislike Jay Leno; I just prefer Conan’s brand of comedy.  However, I would like to address the notion that Leno is the villain in this NBC Late Night Drama.

Now, I have no way of knowing whether or not Jay Leno is a bad dude.  For all I know he may be, but whether he is or isn’t a good guy is irrelevant.  The reason?  Because JAY LENO GOT SCREWED FIRST.

Think about it.  The guy hosted the #1 late night talk show for years and NBC was all set to push him out the door for Conan.  But when the time came for Conan to take over the tonight show, NBC got cold feet (and rightfully so.)  Mark Cuban actually blogged about why we should be applauding NBC for taking a risk and giving Leno a shot at 10pm and I agree with him 100%.

So while I was sad to see Conan kicked off The Tonight Show after only 7 months (I do believe he would have eventually figured it out and got better ratings), the facts are clear as day: Leno dominated that time slot for years and Conan was struggling mightily.  Of course Conan supporters will point to mitigating factors and they do have a point.  But you can’t argue with the stats and the stats say Leno gets the eyeballs.  Conan supporters also point to Leno’s 2004 statements regarding his passing the torch to Conan and retiring.  Well, what did you expect him to say!?  NBC was putting Jay in a retirement home so they could move in their hot new girlfriend.  He really had no choice.

This brings me back to my ultimate point.  Whether you love Jay Leno or hate Jay Leno, you cannot deny that the guy was screwed.  If you or I were in his position, we would be pretty pissed that our employer would fire us after years and years of finishing ahead of our competition.  So please, don’t leave comments discussing the merits of Jay Leno the comedian.  That’s not the point here.  The point here is that Jay Leno got the shaft long before Conan, yet somehow no one mentions this.

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