Well played, Jay Leno. Well played. I was expecting to just write a “good riddance”-riddled response to your Tonight Show goodbye, but then you had to go and cry and make it difficult for me. Fortunately you got Kim Kardashian to “sing” a joke about her ass, so I had something to be snarky about. But it’s really hard to be scathing about someone when they’re crying and their voice is cracking and they’re saying nice things about their colleagues. It kinda kills the mood. Thankfully my heart is just black enough to be critical.
I just have to ask why we’re acting like this hasn’t already happened. Full disclosure, I used to enjoy Jay Leno’s show. I wasn’t a religious viewer or anything, but in high school I would stay up practically every week to watch his “Headlines” segment. I even thought his first farewell episode back in 2009 was a heartfelt and well-deserved send-off.
Then the whole Conan O’Brien fiasco happened and I lost a huge chunk of respect for him. I know Leno’s now at the top of the late-night ratings, as every fan of his is eager to point out whenever anyone criticizes him, but sometimes it’s better to just be a nice guy and let it go, especially considering it was Leno’s prime time show — and in turn his inability to just walk away from the spotlight — that caused the late-night musical chairs to begin with.
I realize it would be hard for Leno to put on a second final episode without treating it like just that — a final episode. As much as I might have hoped for him to go out with just another normal show and a brief, modest goodbye, that probably would have just looked weird and shown how awkward the whole situation is. But having him say goodbye this way — as much as his tears defy us to criticize — is just as awkward. He was in a difficult position, but it’s a position he put himself in four years ago. Let’s just hope he can finally walk away for good this time and give someone else a shot. 22 years is a long time.