Dumping Leno for Fallon: Is NBC sending America a message?

Beware the ideas of geezerhood.
Photo: jack engelhard

NEW YORK, NY, March 25, 2013 - The honchos at NBC must know what they’re doing — and they keep doing it to Jay Leno.

Where’s the love, and isn’t this déjà vu all over again?

As the headlines have it, Leno, who goes on at 11:35 pm eastern time, is to be replaced by the too-cute and hilariously unfunny Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon comes on later and just in time for me to say good night and good luck.

But here’s what Fallon has in his favor; he’s 38. That makes him young. Leno is 62; that makes him old.

Americans of all ages need to pay attention. We’re being sent a message.

The networks, and perhaps the nation’s retailers as well, do not want you after you’ve reached a certain age. Most demographics start at age 18 and go no further than 49. So if you’re 50 and up, you don’t make the cut. You’re toast. You’re in your rocking chair listening to Frankie Laine.

The crazy part is that Leno beats the competition by a mile. He has it over David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel and certainly over Fallon and practically anything else that’s out there in TV’s vast wasteland. But we’re talking niche here, the ability to attract specifically those people who do all the shopping.

Americans 50 and up don’t shop. Got that?

You’re useless and taking up valuable space, according to TV’s executives who themselves surely qualify as being between 18 and 49, or maybe just 18.

Beware the ides of geezerhood.

Even the government barely tolerates you after you can’t order a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.  I’m now told that Society Security checks are now labeled Federal Benefit Payment. Never mind that you were taxed 15 percent all your working life – now Uncle Sam is simply giving you charity, good-for-nothing that you are.

Going by the commercials, even at 49 you’re in danger of being tossed out the window. To count as the ideal American, you should be 18. All the ads for beer regale us with college students ogling, partying and having a blast as they drench themselves with their favorite brew. (The barfing is not shown.)

But could NBC be mistaken again?  Maybe they’re too young to learn.

I think it was back in 2010 when the same NBC geniuses decided to replace Leno with Conan O’Brien, who still can’t get the hang of delivering a punch line.

Fortunately for O’Brien and for all the rest of them, the studio audience is told when to applaud, when to cheer and even when to laugh.

Also back then Leno led all of late night talk television, but, same story, O’Brien was deemed more suitable for the youth demo, so Leno got bumped to an earlier slot, where he lost most of his audience. Loyalty is a tricky business. They love you at 11 but don’t know you at 10.

O’Brien never caught on, as those outside NBC knew he wouldn’t.

So O’Brien got dumped with a $30 million parachute – and still whined. Life is so unjust.

O’Brien has since found another network, which nobody else can find.

Some may recall that the late night wars began years ago in a heads-or-tails toss-up at NBC between Letterman and Leno.

Leno won. Leno keeps winning, but can’t seem to keep a job.

Last Friday he cracked that his bosses tried to make amends for all the bad publicity by inviting him to take a trip on a [typically ill-fated] Carnival Cruise.

There is talk that Leno may go over to Fox. This would be welcome because over at that network he may find guests who actually have something to say, as opposed to nothing but movie actors who appear on all the late night shows to promote their latest movies – all of which is sensationally dull from one network to another.

After the opening monologues, at which Leno is still the best, it can be sheer drudgery for the typical viewer when the small talk begins and never ends.

Where’s Dick Cavett when we need him?

Jimmy Kimmel, meanwhile, is doing okay at ABC, a network that’s now coming out with Bet on Your Baby, which has parents wagering on their toddlers.

Let me know when our culture hits rock bottom – or is this it!


Jack Engelhard, a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, his memoir Escape From Mount Moriah, and Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist, Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer, brings his words to the Communities page covering all topics, with special focus on the absurdity of human behavior and reaches around the globe.

Read more Jack Engelhard, A Novelist’s View of the World

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Jack Engelhard

Jack Engelhard enjoys international fame as a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, which was turned into film starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His memoir Escape From Mount Moriah has been acclaimed for excellence and a movie version was an official selection at CANNES. Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist is Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer. Engelhard’s journalism covers all topics, with special focus on  the absurdity of human behavior, and reaches around the globe. He can be contacted at www.jackengelhard.com


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