With his days as host of The Tonight Show possibly numbered, Conan O'Brien may have figured he should just start doing what everyone else in late-night TV is doing.
Blame Jay Leno.
Not that he doesn't have plenty of ire left for NBC, as demonstrated by tonight's opener featuring Kenneth the Page, but Jay's hand-picked successor finally acknowledged the two-way street that is the Leno-NBC love affair.
"Hosting The Tonight Show has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me —and I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too," the still-quipping funnyman said after introducing himself as the guy who's been practicing the phrase "Who ordered the mochaccino grande?"
Seriously, you'd never guess NBC is gift-wrapping 11:35 p.m. for Leno by listening to the failed prime-time player rail on about being canceled.
"Nobody knows what is going on," Jay told his audience tonight. "Conan O'Brien, understandable, is very upset. He had a statement in the paper yesterday. Conan said NBC has only gave him seven months to make his show work. When I heard that...seven months?! How did he get that deal? We only got four! Who's his agent?"
Well, O'Brien's statement said a lot more than that, too. But Leno hasn't yet said a word about the role NBC would have him play in what Conan "honestly believes is [The Tonight Show's] destruction."
"All the late-night hosts are having great fun with this debacle," Jay added. "Last night, Jimmy Kimmel did his show dressed up as me. I was going to come out dressed as [him]...but I realized I do not have enough black shoe polish here at NBC to get my hair that dark."
Not quite as sharp as when Jimmy came out last night and said, squeaky voce, "My name is Jay Leno and let it here on be known that I'm taking over all the shows in late night."
But while Kimmel's playing dress-up, it's David Letterman who's feeling giddy as a schoolboy over at The Late Show.
Collectively referring to the suits who ran NBC back when he was there as "the pinheads and the nitwits and the twits, and knuckledraggers and the mouth-breathers," Letterman continued his diatribe against the network that more or less screwed him when the Tonight Show changed hands in 1993.
"They wanted to avoid more bad feelings" with the latest passing of the torch, Dave said. "Well, mission accomplished."
(Originally published Jan. 13, 2009, at 8:35 p.m. PT)