Leno's 2004 Tonight Comments Are Replayed
Jay Leno's 2004 comments on NBC's announcement that he would be replaced as host of The Tonight Show in 2009 may be coming back to haunt him. Over the weekend, the website FunnyOrDIE.com dug out a video of Leno's remarks, and it quickly spread virally to other websites. In Leno's 2004 statement, he said he had agreed to step down in order to avoid the kind of wrangling that occurred between himself and David Letterman when he took over the show from Johnny Carson in 1992. "I don't want to see anybody have to go through that again" he said on the air. "You know, this show is like a dynasty -- you hold it and then you hand it off to the next person, and I don't want to see all the fighting and all the 'Who's better?' and nasty things back and forth in the press. So right now, here it is, Conan, it's yours. See you in five years, buddy." Nevertheless, several TV writers have suggested that reports that Leno was considering moving to ABC after his tenure on NBC ended had been partly responsible for the network's decision to launch the 10 00 p.m. debacle. But in interviews with the Associated Press, Leno's staffers came to his defense, insisting that he had no role in the decision to return him to the 11 35 p.m. time period. "The network asked him to make a compromise. He's being a good soldier, and he's being trashed," producer Jack Coen told the A.P. On the other hand, USA Today TV writer Robert Bianco observed, "It may not have been his idea to move to prime time or back to Tonight , but no one forced him to say yes to either proposition. Nor did anyone tell him to make that primetime show so uninspired and insipid, it had the unprecedented trifecta effect of sinking ratings for prime time, local news and late night."