No one wins bigger in the Leno - O’Brien fiasco, the Jay vs. Conan battle, the ……. well you get it. This could go on forever. Even the battle of the terrible ‘dos or coifs. There is just so much fodder for even the most untalented comedian. But Letterman must be in the clouds. Could anything make his work easier? The one liners, the long drawn out jokes, the gossip. What more could one want for a monologue that has to be fresh and new night after night?
Besides the easy material, Dave is going to get the celebrities. Celebrities are going to be a lot more comfortable visiting CBS for a while until NBC gets their lineup in order. The celebrities will still be looking to NBC for exposure, but they will be looking first to CBS.
Just a few months ago things were so different. Dave Letterman was the source of so much easy material for the comedy circuit. Jay and Conan both took advantage of it. Jay, always a nice guy and in keeping with that image, pulled his punches a little.
Unfortunately, the fiasco at NBC has little to do with Jay or Conan. Conan should have seen this coming, and Jay probably did. Jay is truly a nice guy, and in order to get to the top of an industry, especially one as cutthroat as his, while keeping true to yourself, takes a lot of intelligence. Jay saw it coming, set himself up pretty well, and now has to ride out the rough spots and see how it all settles out. At this point, it looks like Jay will get his old spot back, with possibly a different name, Dave will obviously stay where he is, and Conan will be somewhere. Right now, Conan is the mystery. He has not played his cards so well. He let his ambition get the better of him in thinking that Jay’s Tonight Show audience would stick around for Conan’s edgier style of humor. He has also made threats about leaving NBC, which may be empty threats to NBC now that the network knows exactly what his value is.
The biggest question is the ultimate replacement for Jay, when Jay himself decides to call it quits. NBC should let Jay decide his own fate and the fate of his show. NBC should allow Jay to groom his own replacement in return for a piece of the Tonight Show. This would be such a potentially win-win solution as to the question of the future of the Tonight Show. Unfortunately, win-win is not what corporate America is about, and especially not what Hollywood is about.
In the mean time, until things settle out at NBC, CBS will win the late night ratings and have an inside edge on the prime time slots as well, at least as it stacks up against NBC. Dave Letterman will win across the board.