NBC tries to put the best spin on Leno’s return to “The Tonight Show”

You know that old saying, if it ain't broke, don't fix it? Of course you do. That's why it's an old saying. And if NBC had thought of that in 2004, it wouldn't have found itself doomed to repeat history, which is another unfortunate saying that the network forgot about. Two-fer! Actually Toofer is a 30 Rock character, also on NBC. Anyhow. Where was I?

After confirming that it had wrapped up negotiations to end Conan O'Brien's seven-month stint on The Tonight Show — for a reported $45 million including fees to cover severance for O'Brien's staff and his executive producer — NBC put out a press release celebrating the return of Jay Leno to his old time-slot. If that's what getting fired means, sign me up! Conan's last show for NBC is tomorrow, Jan. 22, and he is free to return to TV full-time somewhere else as of Sept. 1, 2010. Leno, meanwhile, returns to his old slot on March 1, following the Winter Olympics coverage, which will pre-empt most everything in primetime and late-night on the NBC networks.

The words in NBC's press release sure sounds like they're putting the best possible spin on cancelling Leno's primetime show — which affiliates and critics hated — and giving him back the show they had taken away from him. Can we just pretend the past didn't happen? That's what this sounds like…

"We're pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for many years," said NBC Universal's Entertainment chief Jeff Gaspin. "He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on television."

That was followed by this paragraph (italics added):

Leno previously hosted "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" from May 1992-May 2009. The program will continue to showcase many of the features that made Leno America's late-night leader for more than a dozen years.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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