By Mitchell HadleyWell, NBC certainly finds itself in a pickle of its own making, doesn't it? And it's probably safe to say that it's now worse than a fiasco or a debacle - it's a joke:
I suppose there's an element of sour grapes to all this; Letterman has no love for either Leno or NBC, and Kimmel's been always trailed Leno's Tonight Show in the ratings. As for the two NBC hosts, my recollection is that Leno was "forced" off Tonight in the first place because NBC feared they'd lose O'Brien to a competitor network. In turn, NBC gave Leno the prime-time slot for the same reason - fear that someone else would pick him up. So neither of them are the complete innocents they might at first glance appear to be.
Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine that NBC could have handled this any worse than they did. As everyone from politicians to sports stars will tell you, you should never let something leak out before you're sure how it's going to end. NBC's first mistake was in allowing the news of a possible time shift to come out, leading to immense speculation - all of it harmful to the network. Compounding that, they then go public on their restructuring plans before they've secured the cooperation of all parties involved. One could argue that after the original story broke they had no option but to bring it out in the open, in an attempt to get on top of the story. Be that as it may, they handled it so badly you'd think the network was being run by the people in the Obama White House. (Considering that MSNBC is virtually an arm of the Democratic Party, you do have to wonder...)
Anyway, it will be quite interesting to see how this pans out. Will Conan make the leap to Fox, as most people seem to expect? Will Leno return triumphantly to Tonight, or will viewers see him as a blade man in the backstabbing of O'Brien? Will any of them be able to catch Letterman, or does Dave's biggest problem come from himself and his wandering eye? (Note to pro-am golf tournament directors: pairing Letterman and Tiger Woods may not be a good idea. Then again, if it's a tournament on NBC...) Speaking of NBC, will programming honcho Jeff Zucker be able to hang on to his job after having steered the Peacock Network straight into a Titanic-sized iceberg?
For the answers to these and many other questions, be sure to tune in tomorrow for another episode of "As the Late Night Talk Shows Turn." Right now, it's the best soap opera around.