The media and the public have been going crazy about Jay Leno’s interview with Oprah yesterday. You can find people tweeting about it even today, and the “I’m with Coco” Facebook page has received almost thousands of comments regarding the Oprah show. (Beware: Some of the comments say nasty things about both Jay and Oprah. These people are hardcore.)
As someone who considers herself on Team Conan, I made a point to watch the show yesterday morning. The interview itself was obviously supposed to redeem whatever’s left of Leno’s “everyday nice guy” image, and many writers have been referring to the episode as a means of “damage control” for Jay. For the general public and the media, it didn’t work. People are still siding with Conan. But for Oprah and her stage audience? Well, that’s a different story.
Since Leno came off as aloof, unemotional, and an NBC puppet, the interview was not as enlightening as I had expected it to be. The most dramatic part was probably when Oprah told Jay she thought the jokes at Letterman about his infidelity were “beneath” him, and Leno lied saying he only told one Letterman joke all week. (False. He told more than one.) And the only tough question Oprah really asked was why Leno didn’t just pack up and leave after NBC “fired” (more like pandered to) him twice. Jay responded that he’s just a guy who got fired from his job, and when offered his old job back, he took it.
“And really, who can blame him?” is what we are supposed to think after watching this. But as far as I can tell, the only people who fell into this trap were the people in Oprah’s audience for the after-show debate about the late night controversy. You can watch the whole video on Oprah’s official website. For Conan fans, it will be truly infuriating to watch.
In a nutshell: The audience has watched the already-taped interview with Leno, and Oprah opens up a floor of discussion that’s supposed to include both arguments in favor of either Conan or Leno. For the next half hour or so, Oprah shoves the Leno bias down her audience’s throats, saying constantly after explaining something, “Do you all understand that? Do you realize that’s what happened here?”
She won’t let up, and then the audience turns out to be almost completely on Leno’s side. In fact, the only people who get applause after their arguments are the ones defending Leno. Oprah repeats her arguments in favor or Leno, and basically ends up regurgitating what Jay already said in the interview.
Highlights of points from both Oprah and her audience are listed below. (The parentheses include my commentary):
- Jay Leno is just a guy who lost his job.
- Jay Leno is just a guy who took back his job when it was offered to him.
- Jay Leno does not consider himself a talk show host; he considers himself a stand-up comedian. (Except he’s not funny, so how do you figure that?)
- Jay Leno “wasn’t done yet” when NBC told him to pass the torch to Conan.
- Jay Leno deserves 30 years just like Johnny Carson. (Dear God, help us all.)
- Jay Leno was No. 1 on the Tonight Show for many years after 17 years.
- After 7 whole months, Conan was NOT No. 1! What a failure!
- Conan just couldn’t get the ratings. TV is about the ratings.
- Leno doesn’t own himself – NBC does.
- Unlike Leno, Oprah owns herself.
- “Team Coco” should have watched the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien while it was on the air, instead of just supporting him after he was about to leave. (Okay Oprah, I’ll give you that.)
- Jay Leno is a nice, funny guy.
- David Letterman is a bully.
- No one should feel sorry for Conan – he got 40-something million dollars. (And, as proof that he’s a better person than Leno, shared it with his whole staff.)
- Many people in the audience really had no clue what happened in the Late Show War except for what they saw in the Oprah interview. (Great. And now you’re getting air time to debate the issue.)
- Asked multiple times by Oprah: “Raise your hands if you changed your mind after watching this interview.”
- As far as O is concerned, you damn well should have changed your mind after this interview.
- NBC handled this whole thing poorly and was unfair to both O’Brien and Leno.
And, my favorite repeated point from Ms. Winfrey:
- That’s just how TV works. Tough.
What a crock of…Ahem. Sorry, Team Conan coming out. I don’t want to start hating on O, but basically, the degree to how one-sided this whole group discussion was really disgusted me. I wish I had been in that audience, so I could’ve pointed out all the things in defense of Conan that were conveniently left out of the conversation.
Oh, and by the way – Happy Birthday, Oprah.