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Jay Leno tells Oprah about his broken heart


Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien apparently have something in common besides hosting "The Tonight Show" -- both have been emotionally crushed by NBC.

In his first sit-down interview since Late-Night-Gate began earlier this month, Leno tells Oprah Winfrey that when NBC executives told him in 2004 that they wanted him to relinquish "The Tonight Show" in 2009 to make way for O'Brien,  "It broke my heart. It really did. I was devastated," Leno said. "This was the job that I had always wanted and this was the only job that ever mattered in show business -- to me. It's the job every comic aspires to. It was just like, why?"

The interview, which airs on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today, was taped Tuesday on the set of the soon-to-be-defunct "The Jay Leno Show."

For more on what transpired during the interview, including Leno's admission that he told a "white lie" to TV viewers, go to our sister newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.  (The show airs earlier in Chicago than in Los Angeles, where viewers can see it at 3 p.m. on KABC-TV Channel 7.)

Do you think NBC was as clueless about hurting Leno's feelings as it was about O'Brien's disappointment over the network's plans to push "The Tonight Show" to 12:05 a.m. so it could cancel Leno's prime-time show and air a half-hour comedy show hosted by him at 11:35 p.m.?

-- Maria Elena Fernandez (follow me on Twitter @writerchica)

Video: Jay Leno on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Credit. Harpo Productions


NBC's Jeff Gaspin on emotions and late-night TV

First Look: Oprah asks Jay Leno tough questions

Conan O'Brien signs off

Comments () | Archives (13)

of course they knew they were hurting him - and they did it because Conan the Brat threatened to walk in '04. but NBC wanted their cake and to eat it too, so in order to keep Conan, they shoved Jay out and came up with this b.s. "Leno retiring" story. serves them right for thinking that cult-y Conan would sit well with Mom's & Pop's in the heartland in the earlier Tonight Show time slot.

oh, and don't think it's a coincidence that NBC just picked up a show created by Conan's production company. it's all part of the big "I'm sowwy" NBC execs had to issue so Conan wouldn't walk away too pissed. Conan's a rich, unfunny, douche and NBC execs are morons. I hope Leno recovers his audience, 'cos they screwed him up too.

I think Jay knows that the only possible angle to gain any sympathy in this situation is to play up that he was "forced" out of the Tonight Show to make room for Conan. Please, what a lie. He thought he'd be ready to retire then changed his mind. They couldn't have forced him to agree to that if he didn't want it. He comes out of this whole situation looking like a jerk.

Who cares?

NOPE.COM Jay went back on his promise/contract, he realized that he'd be losing money and won't be able to afford another 20 "priceless" cars, and he cared less about Conan. To get people to stay up late and watch the Tonight Show needs a really good lead in. Jay sucked at his 10pm show....Jay's not funny BTW (I don't see how people think he's funny). But what a loser to go crying to Mama Oprah for public sympathy...not going to happen!

How can something be broken that was never there to begin with?

I don't think Leno is lying! I don't think he wanted to leave the Tonight Show in the first place, but the decision wasn't his and he made the best of it. I hate to tell everyone (i mean all the Leno-bashers), but Leno is not in charge of NBC.

I have always liked Jay- he seems to be a real decent & genuine person. A Class Act ALWAYS.

A complicated (and greedy) business decision by NBC that went sour and was turned emotional by Conan's "boy with a dream" performance...making Jay suffer through an hour with Oprah. The ratings will determine whether Jay stays and not Oprah's poll or this blog.

Leno lied to the public, to NBC and to Conan about his intent to retire. For Jay, it's easier to lie than to fight fairly. Why risk everything in a fair fight, when you can weasel your way to what you want. Mr. Nice Guy Leno is a sellout, phoney.

Jay felt bad. But apparently not bad enough to step aside for the rest of the late night shows. He wonders how he could have handled things differently. Well, gee, he could have done the noble thing that Conan himself did- issue a statement or hold a press conference denouncing NBC's decision. But, no, Jay decided to lay low and let Conan take the fall. Real classy.

Leno helmed one of the biggest bombs in television history and NBC rewards him first by allowing him to push back the start time of the Tonight Show (what kind of ego must a person have to think they merit bumping the flagship Tonight Show back a half-hour?). Then, after Conan makes an intelligent and graceful stand against this idiotic move, NBC punishes Conan for having cojones, while promoting the man who almost single-handedly ruined their entire fall primetime line-up.

I have absolutely no respect for Jay Leno or his entourage of NBC handlers. He does not deserve the show, the timeslot, or an audience. Backstabbing behavior does not merit a reward. I urge you to follow by example and NEVER WATCH Leno's Tonight Show.

Leno should have fought harder 5+ years ago but instead chose the cowardly deceit route. Both NBC and Leno really handled many aspects of this mess poorly and probably deserve each other. Bottom line still is, however, that Leno could/should have done the right thing and removed himself as an option at 11:35 thereby allowing Conan to continue with the Tonight Show as planned.

The b.s. about the Tonight Show losing money is simply spin. NBC spent a lot of money on the new studio plus other "start up" items but would have quickly made that back down the road if the show had been allowed to continue. The real financial liability was going to be Leno's 10 o'clock show and the harm it was doing to affiliate relationships.

Just say NO to leNO!

Viva Conan!

I've bumped into Jay on several occasions around the neighborhood, although he lives in Beverly Hills he seems like a Burbank resident,pretty decent guy in person but man... he's wrong on this one. I completely agree with Tom LA, he should've done the right thing and removed himself or fought harder 5+ years ago to keep the show. Lets not believe the notion that it was all NBC execs. when you're consistantly spanking Letterman in the ratings you have plenty to say. Conan was a much bigger man than Jay in this case, I hope he finds a show this fall, he deserves it.


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