Being a TCA member has its advantages. Thanks to critic pals Aaron Barnhart, Marc Berman and Bill Carter--as well as Buffalo News scribe Alan Pergament (who hooked me up with WGRZ affiliate GM Jim Toellner)--for helping me out on this story, posted today at MSNBC.com.
The subject is Jay Leno and the pitch from editor Gael Fashingbaur Cooper was to follow up on last week's Broadcast & Cable interview, the one where Leno mentioned he would take his old Tonight Show job back if offered. Cooper wanted to know: Was the Jay Leno Show in any serious trouble?
NBC maintains the quote was badgered out of Leno and reading the original story, you can feel the aggressive stance writer Ben Grossman took with the NBC host. Others feel a seasoned pro like Leno says nothing he doesn't intend to say and that the quip was some sort of signal to NBC.
I dunno. As Carter suggested to me, the Leno in the B&C piece sounds like his usual, feisty self. He can be remarkably candid and you also get a sense speaking with him (Leno was famously accessible except for those last few Tonight years, before the 10 p.m. announcement) that he genuinely wants to answer anything thrown his way.
What surprised me in speaking with Barnhart--a long time Letterman fan who has been posting regular Dave items for over 15 years ago on the Internet--was how Letterman`s recent revelations may have shifted things. For years, Letterman could do no wrong with many of us who cover television. He was our guy and we rooted for him, if not in print, in front of our own sets.
Trouble is, we could never talk to the guy. Letterman rarely did any press. Leno was the opposite, calling reporters at all hours to react to a story or challenge a report.
That career standoffishness may be working against Letterman as he attempts to move forward past the whole extortion/ confession mess.
And now that Leno is an overwhelming underdog--a position he wears like a shield--many of us seem to be shifting, if not our allegiances, then perhaps in our respect. (Even Letterman flasher Drew Barrymore, above left, seems to have switched sides.)
Interesting times, I just wish things would settle down long enough for me to stop adding chapters to my book!
Meanwhile, to look past Leno`s rating woes to the whole big picture meltdown at NBC, check out this feature in the current issue of New York magazine, passed along by another critic pal, Jim Bawden. Worth clicking to just for the feather-shedding Peacock illustrations alone (by Christoph Niemann).