Bill Carter, author of The Late Shift, which covered the Leno-Letterman battle for The Tonight Show in the 90’s, has a new book coming out today called The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy.
The new book documents the recent NBC Tonight Show debacle, where Conan O’Brien was booted by Leno loving NBC execs because the 10 pm Jay Leno Show was cancelled for being such a dismal failure and Chinzilla himself desperately wanted his original show back. It also showcases what a class act O’Brien is, and how he handled such a devastating loss and epic screw job with humour and grace.
The best part of the book is that although Carter again faithfully documents the events that transpired, all the objectivity in the world can’t prevent Leno from coming off as the petulant, soulless, pod-person that he is. There is also first hand testimony in the book from an NBC executive who goes on record and describes Leno as a “strange, strange, man,” due to his tunnel-vision obsession with hosting The Tonight Show and his compulsive need to continue to dole out humourless, unoriginal and ham-fisted monologues and comedy bits night after night.
With Conan’s new TBS show (airing on CTV and The Comedy Network in Canada) debuting November 8th, and with Leno’s extremely elderly core demographic nearing the end of their life spans, it would be nice if The War For Late Night served as a death knell for the career of the most selfish, two-faced, back-stabbing, talentless hack late night television has ever seen. But like a cockroach after a nuclear explosion, I expect Leno will crawl through the muck in order to find a way to survive.