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Jimmy Kimmel schools Jay Leno on his own show as NBC takes more hits for late night mess

15

January

Jay_Leno_Hand Just when you think the news couldn't get any worse for Jay Leno and NBC late night, ABC host Jimmy Kimmel brings the noise.

Appearing Tuesday on Leno's 10@10 segment -- usually a vehicle for lame/uncomfortable banter with celebrities trying gamely to answer odd questions -- Kimmel brought home the seemingly universal disdain for the former Tonight Show host among other comics and hosts which has been building as NBC's late night woes continue.

Comparing Leno to the Peanuts character Lucy Van Pelt, saying the former Tonight Show host gave Conan O'Brien NBC's storied late night franchise, only to snatch it away at the last second -- Kimmel gave a mocking voice to what O'Brien fans have been saying for days. That it was happening on Leno's own show in a segment he couldn't shut down without looking like a jerk, only made the discomfort more delicious.

As others have noted, Leno has reflexively portrayed himself as a victim of mistakes by NBC executives, even though his show's massive underperformance in ratings created the crisis undermining the network's schedule. Kimmel's broadsides punctured that pretense, casting Leno as an active participant in taking back his old timeslot from O'Brien once things went south.

Zucker-obrien Ironically, the New York Times has a story today quoting NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol criticizing O'Brien as "chicken hearted and gutless" for airing jokes critical of Leno. But Ebersol is widely seen as voicing a point of view also held by the guy who has engineered this massive debacle, NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker.

Zucker's role in this has been so vilified, even Daily Show host Jon Stewart was making derisive jokes about working for him and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a column wondering how he has kept his job.

So Ebersol now steps forward to get Zucker's point of view in the press without facing uncomfortable questions about his own decisions. Who exactly is the chicken hearted guy here?

NBC has already announced what it plans to do once Leno's show is gone in March, and it's something i predicted early Thursday in an interview with a trade publication: at 10 p.m., there's Law & Order on Mondays, a TV version of the film Parenthood on Tuesdays, Law & Order: SVU Wednesdays, a new unscripted show from Jerry Seinfeld called The Marriage Ref on Thursdays and newsmagazine Dateline NBC Fridays.

NBC denied a report on TMZ.com that it has already closed a deal to give The Tonight Show back to Leno, other reports say O'Brien's last day is Jan. 22. And because network executives have allowed all this to play out in public as both O'Brien and Leno are hosting new episodes, O'Brien was able to go on his show Thursday and tell fans Zucker was trying to play hardball and keep him off television for more than three years.

Kimmel suggested during his Leno segment that he'd love to get both Leno and O'Brien on his show for a simultaneous interview.

Given the decisions made by the brain trust at NBC so far, I'm predicting they might even go through with it. Here's Kimmel's Leno appearance:

And the sanitized version NBC put on its Web site: And O'Brien's Thursday show :

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:04pm]

    

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