I suspect NBC knows it.
And I predict history will record it.
This is the death of The Tonight Show.
Oh, sure, something will hang on with the name and some people will watch it, but it will just be stumbling along. Whatever was left of the institution is gone.
You see, five years ago NBC made a decision to dump Leno from "Tonight" and replace him with popular Late Night host Conan O'Brien.
People now are trying to go back and suggest that the decision itself was wrong, but will be making a mistake. What they did was right. It was the when that they got wrong. You see, I'm sure NBC's research tells them what anyone my age or younger could tell them anecdotally. Baby Boomers, or "The Worst Generation", may put up with that Leno guy's shenanigans but younger viewers don't just not care for him, we fucking hate him like poison.
And the generation coming of age now doesn't even have a way to remember, as Why Some Comics Aren’t Laughing at Jay Leno by Nathan Rabin makes note of, when Leno used to be funny.
Somehow, internally, this is more than a preference thing. You say you like Ray Romano or even Larry the Cable Guy and I'll roll my eyes and remember not to take comedy advice from you. Even before this, saying you like Leno upsets me viscerally. It kind of make me want to kick your ass. It makes you the other. My enemy.
It's not an accident that the I'm with Coco campaign pictures and rhetoric look political. There is a feeling of us vs. them. Frankly, if Leno is going to hell for nothing else, though, it's for making me write the following words: Jimmy Kimmel, you sir, totally rock!
But you want to know what really upsets me in all of this? The fact that I don't really care.
Since Johnny Carson retired, I don't care for that 11:35/10:35pm slot. I loved David Letterman on "Late Night", but I have to admit, as much as I wanted to latch onto Late Show and have tried to, and may have occasionally pretended to, I just can't seem to. I enjoy it occasionally when I've bothered to watch.
And frankly I feel the same about Conan's version of "The Tonight Show". I think Conan's awesome. I think "The Tonight Show" time, place, etc. is meaningless. The only thing I like is the part where Leno is publicly humiliated a little, but he's obviously "won".
And clearly that's literally the only thing that smug, smarmy little car salesman bastard cares about. 17 years as regular host on "The Tonight Show" have demonstrated that gaining respect isn't something he cares about. His is an insular perspective, uninterested in the world around him except in how it benefits him or can be used in a way to better show him off to the world. Perhaps in that way is how Leno best represents his generation, and how the world will deserve him until the Baby Boomers die off and fall to senility in greater numbers.