The Tonight Show with Jay Leno made its debut on May 25, 1992, but even by Christmas that year, NBC was still treating Jay like a late night experiment. Jay was so upset by the network's inability to commit to his contract that he disappeared from the show's holiday party early, while the likes of "Mr. Anecdote," Fred De Cordova, was on stage performing some kind of fatuous satire with other members of the NBC brass.
Even by New Years, I remembered writing a joke about NBC's ability to forget old acquaintances. It's hard to believe that after all these years they are still treating him like a pawn instead of a King. Maybe it's just the bad Karma from when former Tonight Show Executive Producer Helen Kushnick applied pressure to have Johnny Carson retire sooner while she was Jay's manager.
Although Jay seemed opposed to her strategy, Helen was like the Dick Cheney of late night, hell bent on seeing her agenda carried out regardless of the eventual fallout from her actions. One such action, sending the Tonight Show audience home because NBC wouldn't cut a live address by Ronald Reagan short, not only ended her reign of Tonight Show terror, but also allowed Jay to justify breaking free from his undying loyalty to her.
I said on the O'reilly Factor that Jay was going through Lenopause but the truth is that he is a master dinner chef who was asked to cook lunch and attempted to try and get the lunchers to eat from the dinner menu. The Tonight Show itself was an institution, and although it went through many changes from it's inception in 1954 when it was launched by Sigourney Weaver's father Sylvester "Pat" Weaver who was an executive at NBC, Johnny concretized it's current highly emulated structure. .
Now that NBC is owned by a cable giant, I imagine the letters will signify Nine Billion Channels but if they are smart they will become diligent in bringing the 11:35 slot back to it's familiar format because as the world is changing at a record pace, at the end of the day people will be looking for the comfort of the familiar to tuck them in.
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