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Did NBC Blow It Again?

I know this probably will be a minority view in my demographic, but I can't help but wonder if NBC has blown its late-night plans again by keeping Jay Leno and letting Conan O'Brien walk.

In the short term, Leno is bound to improve the ratings for "The Tonight Show" if only because he won't have to deal with his own 10 p.m. albatross like O'Brien did. 

But Leno's huge failure at 10 p.m. also indicates that he isn't as beloved a figure as NBC apparently believes. And rightly or wrongly, the way the late-night feud has played out has hurt Leno's image and made him look like a guy who is benefitting from his own failure.

NBC executives and Leno are blaming O'Brien 's departure on his poor ratings, but that ignores the fact that NBC supposedly wanted to keep him at 12:05 a.m.

O'Brien may have been an acquired taste, but seven months wasn't long enough to discover if his act would ever have worked with older viewers.

Clearly, O'Brien is more well-liked by younger viewers, who don't feel Leno is edgy enough. The popular theory is that O'Brien will land on Fox, which embraces edgy.

But I had a wild thought. Is it possible that David Letterman would persuade CBS to hire Conan and put him on in place of Craig Ferguson this fall? Then Conan eventually could replace Letterman if he ever retires.

It probably can't happen because of contractual considerations, but wouldn't it be a wonderful way for Letterman to stick it to Leno and NBC?

-- Alan Pergament   

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About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

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