By now the entire universe knows about The Feud.
It was supposed to be a smooth transition of power. Last year Jay Leno was going to gracefully cede his throne to his successor, the inimitable Conan O’Brien, who would relocate from New York to L.A. to take over the most revered late-night talk show ever, The Tonight Show. But things didn’t quite go according to plan.
Nudged out by a deal made in 2005, Leno still willingly retired from late-night in late May, only to immediately host the hour-long Jay Leno Show at 10 PM that soon faltered and hurt ratings of the nightly news in some markets, angering many network affiliates. And The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien stumbled because of a weak lead-in and because Conan had to smooth out some of his edgy humor. Both programs suffered. Smarting from a string of bad creative decisions over the last couple of years, NBC executives panicked and decided to rush Leno back to 11:35 for a half-hour show starting in March. Their offer to Conan to push his hour-long show to 12:05 was rebuffed, and now they’re buying him out, leaving their late-night schedule up in the air.
Leno wanted to go out on top. He never wanted to cause problems, overstay his welcome or create an imbroglio like the one that caused a ginormous rift between him and David Letterman when he beat out the latter to take over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in 1992. Don’t believe it? Let Jay tell you. Let’s go back to 2004…