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YMMV: The Tonight Show

Tonight! America After Dark (1957) provides examples of:

Both (1992-2009, 2010-2014) of Jay Leno's incarnations provide examples of:

  • Adored by the Network / Creator's Pet: He makes the network a good amount of money for not much cost or risk, and they've been afraid of the possibility of him competing against their programming on another network.
  • Critical Backlash: Against Leno.
  • Internet Backdraft: Debates on whether Leno is funny or not can get heated, especially after the conflict with Conan. There was debate about his conduct during that which led to some backdraft for him, but the backdraft towards NBC was pretty much unanimous.
  • Mis-blamed: The initial reaction to Conan's departure from Tonight had some of this for Leno, namely on how plenty of people online (and even a bit on TV) thought Jay forced NBC to give him back Tonight just to spite poor Conan. However, the decision mostly rests with NBC executives, and Jay really can only be blamed for accepting the job back instead of leaving.
  • Never Live It Down: Double subverted. Despite what some David Letterman fans think, Leno did live down the "talk show wars of '93" ... and that situation for Jay vs. Letterman became a popular topic once again (in which even Tonight itself gave it some Lampshade Hanging).
  • Ron the Death Eater: Leno got this treatment by some Conan supporters.
  • Tear Jerker: Leno's farewell speech on his final show, February 6, 2014. No matter how you feel about the man himself, you can't help but end up choking back tears, especially when he talks about losing (more or less) his entire biological family after first starting on the show and how the staff eventually became his family.

Conan O'Brien's incarnation (2009-10) provides examples of:

  • Broken Base: Conan vs. Jay, which has parallels in the original Jay vs. Dave Broken Base.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Conan's first guest during his tenure on the show was Will Ferrell, who sang a farewell song to welcome Conan onto the show. When Conan called him out on it, Ferrell replied that networks are fickle, and one never knows when the show might be cancelled. Everyone took it as a good-natured gag, thinking that booting Conan off the show would not happen - at least, not as soon as it did. Ferrell was also Conan's last guest, and dressed as a hippie, played the guitar and sang a real farewell song, accompanied onstage by his wife who was pregnant and close to giving birth at the time.
    • Conan might have jinxed himself during a final interview on the Today Show prior to moving to Los Angeles to host the Tonight Show. Matt Lauer asks Conan if he would consider coming back to New York for a visit after a year (of hosting the show). Conan jokingly replied that he wouldn't be on television in a year.
  • Heartwarming Moments: David Letterman, one of Conan's comedy idols and his predecessor on Late Night, going absolutely nuclear on NBC and Jay Leno. Letterman has his own reasons for disliking Jay Leno, but it's gotta be nice to know that your comedy hero has your back.
    • On January 18, 2010 a large crowd of people gathered outside of Universal Studios in spite of cold, rainy weather to show their support for Conan. Turned into a Moment Of Awesome when Conan himself came running out into the crowd to hug, shake hands, literally jump around, tell the crowd to "Keep cool, my babies!" (the crowd went insane at this), lead them on a Rocky-style run to the studio, then from the roof of the studio waved and performed an impromptu string dance which drove the crowd even crazier. Similar rallies were held in cities across America, most notably in front of 30 Rockefeller Center in New York.
      • Not only that, but he bought pizza for the entire crowd on account of them being in the rain so long.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The "Twitter Tracker" skit parodied increasingly vapid celebrity tweets. Guess who has a Twitter account?
    "Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me."
  • Screwed by the Network: NBC made all the wrong decisions by pretty much everyone's observation.
  • Tear Jerker: Deon Cole reiterating during a sketch that Conan's staff loves him and is totally loyal to him, about a week before their tenure on the show was about to end.
    • As well as Conan's speech to his audience on his Grand Finale. He told the audience that, as part of his settlement, he was allowed to say anything he wanted during the segment. He went on to thank NBC, his staff, his crew, his audience, his fans, and everyone who supported him. He advised his younger fans to shun cynicism and embrace kindness. And he did all this while choking back tears himself.

Jimmy Fallon's incarnation (2014-Present) provides examples of:

  • Hilarious in Hindsight: On Jimmy's first night, Stephen Colbert (host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, which airs opposite The Tonight Show) was one of the many big stars to welcome him, dumping a small barrel's worth of pennies onto Fallon's desk and shouting, "Welcome to 11:30, BITCH!" It became a bit more amusing a few months later in 2014, when it announced that Colbert himself was moving to take over David Letterman's show on CBS. This meant that he was still airing at 11:30, but was now competing against Fallon on one of the main broadcast networks.


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