Was it really as simple as getting rid of Jay Leno?
For the longest time, late-night television was a battlefield. Beginning with Johnny Carson’s retirement in 1992—which set up the Leno/Letterman divide that would define the landscape for two decades—and best epitomized by the disastrous 2009 Tonight Show handover and subsequent takeback from Conan O’Brien, late-night has always been a bloody zero-sum conflict that inflated every minor change to the equation into a major tectonic shift.
NBC so bungled the Leno/O’Brien transition that when rumors began to emerge in early 2013 that the last-place network was planning to push top-rated Leno out for good and hand the keys to the Tonight Show to the younger, cooler Jimmy Fallon, another fiasco seemed inevitable. While the whispers grew, Leno fanned the flames on his show, making jokes about being knifed in the back by NBC execs. No one thought he would go quietly, and his critics, late-night rivals, and the other networks waited gleefully for another wave of schadenfreude. READ FULL STORY