Monday, January 18, 2010

The Tonight Show Is No Longer "The Tonight Show"

In Bill Carter's book, The Late Shift, written more than 15 years ago, he followed the trail of Leno and Letterman and how NBC poorly managed the changing of the hosts. Unfortunately, history seems to have repeated itself. We find ourselves with another debacle caused by NBC's handling of a shifting of hosts from Leno to Conan. And NBC keeps tripping over itself, including Dick Ebersol's unnecessary remarks about Conan.

Back when Johnny Carson was being forced out of The Tonight Show by NBC and Leno was being groomed as the successor, Dave Letterman was then the guy pushed out. Obviously, Dave survived and in fact blossomed in his new role at CBS. But a comment that Carson said to Letterman still seems to resonate. He told Dave that the Tonight Show after him would never have the cache it once had. With Leno scheduled to be at the helm, it would never be the same. Carson said to Letterman to make your new show that next piece of TV history. And Carson was right. The Tonight Show no longer represented the golden age of TV and Letterman has done well.

And today we seem to have deja vu all over again. NBC has made a mess and one host will find himself without a gig on their air. The Tonight Show's storied history has been smudged once again and it's future remains depressed. Can it be fixed. Eventually yes. But bringing Jay back is not really a fix, simply a bandaid. Is there more to this story, most likely yes. Perhaps we need Bill Carter to wrote The Late Shift, Part II, to get the fuller picture.

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