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September 4, 2015

Letterman speaks up for Leno

by Allison Waldman, posted Sep 3rd 2008 2:02PM
Letterman deskWhile NBC is carefully plotting Jay Leno's exit from The Tonight Show, David Letterman is talking about staying on the CBS Late Show beyond 2010. And since the subject of Leno came up, Dave thinks the guys at NBC are nuts to treat Jay the way they are, especially since he's done such a great job in the 11:30 slot. Letterman even said he wants Jay on his show the day after his Tonight Show tenure ends.

Letterman, who was once the heir apparent to Johnny Carson's desk but was passed over in favor of Leno, has thrived on CBS even though he was crushed to lose The Tonight Show. The supposed feud between Letterman and Leno, and their competition for The Tonight Show, was depicted in the HBO film (and Bill Carter book) The Late Shift. (If you've never seen it, buy or rent it; it's one of the best films ever about how TV works behind the scenes.)

Now, all these years later, it's ironic that Dave would be advocating for Jay, but that's the case. He openly questioned the wisdom of switching things up at NBC, and losing Leno.

On the other hand, this may be a situation where Dave is just happier going toe to toe with Leno -- a friendly adversary -- instead of Conan O'Brien, a friend. Letterman pointed out that Conan is very funny and could be great on Tonight. David acknowledged that he doesn't know how well he's going to do when his show is up against an O'Brien Tonight Show, so maybe that prompted his comments. Of course, he's not alone in thinking "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Dave could be hedging his bets, setting himself up as the old pro/underdog trying to hold on against a recharged Tonight. Is he lowering expectations on purpose to put the pressure of O'Brien to be a smash from day one? Of course, that's exactly what Dave was when he started at CBS in 1994. Frankly, he's never gotten over losing the NBC show and it still irks him that other guys have gotten the spot he believes was his.

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the networks are assholes, this is common knowledge. they treat ppl like crap.
letterman was unofficially promised the spot after carson, but was screwed over at the last minute.
what's really interesting is that even though there is all this bitter infighting, ego wars etc.. both shows are doing great, even conan's doing great.
so the real winners are the networks, which makes you think.
treat ppl like shit, and you'll get results!

September 04 2008 at 12:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't rent The Late Shift. Read the book.

September 03 2008 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ah the Late Shift. Leno complained about looking like one of the Puttermans (those plastic people from the duracell (i think) commercials at the time), and Letterman wondered why they had him in his backyard throwing softballs at archery targets.

September 03 2008 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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