Tuesday, January 19, 2021

LENO GOING OUT AT THE TOP, BUT THE TOP AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE

February 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Tonight will mark the final episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Much has been made of the fact that Leno’s final guest will be Billy Crystal, who was Leno’s first guest when he took over the show from Johnny Carson in 1992. But if those two guest shots are regarded as bookends and the volumes in between are measured by the number of their viewers, the final ones may seem slim indeed. Just ten years ago Tonight could average ten million viewers per night. It now often averages fewer than 3 million (although tonight’s episode is expected to nearly double that number.) Leno himself can’t be blamed for that decline; the show has not suffered because of a lack of quality. Blame the decline instead on the DVR and Netflix and, to a lesser degree, on the low-rated NBC primetime lineup that precedes the show. What is particularly striking is that the Tonight show remains as strong as it is. As New York Times TV writer Bill Carter, who wrote a book about the late-night TV competition, observed on Wednesday, “Despite the diminished state of late-night television, and technology that has altered viewing habits, the Tonight show remains one of the signature franchises of broadcasting and still carries unusual resonance.”