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The Late Night Wars Continue Even as a Victor Has Arisen

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | November 2, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | November 2, 2009 |

(PAJIBALAND) — The ratings for the late night talk shows are in for the month of October, and David Letterman looks like the big winner, despite — or perhaps, because of — the recent controversy stemming from the affairs he had with female staffers on the show. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The Late Show” is up 13 percent year to year, while the news for “The Tonight Show” with Conan O’Brien isn’t nearly as good: He’s down a whopping 47 percent year to year. The only silver lining here is that at least “The Tonight Show” is only down 15 percent in the coveted 18-49 demographic. Moreover, “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” is also dominating NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” averaging 2 million viewers per night, compared to Fallon’s 1.6 million.

Meanwhile, Nikke Finke is reporting that Jay Leno is getting defensive about his own disaster of a 10 p.m. show on NBC, a trainwreck that is not only affecting the Peacock network, but the local NBC affiliates, which are down 22 to 30 percent in the 11 p.m. hour in major markets. In statements from Leno, he does seem to be blaming NBC partly for the disaster, noting that “Lead-ins are important. On the nights when we have a strong lead-in, we are competitive; on the nights we don’t, it’s up to us to try and carry the ball ourselves.” He also suggested that he’d not only prefer to have the 11:30 slot back, but if NBC offered it to him, he’d take it, even if that meant Conan was going to get the shaft.

On Letterman and his troubles, Leno also noted: “I wouldn’t trade places with Dave now for anything! I don’t think he’s getting a free pass. If it were me, it would kill me. I’m the guy who’s been married 29 years. But Dave has never pretended to be Mr. Moral America, he’s never set himself up that way. He’s not a hypocrite.”

Also, note that for Mr. Moral America, it’s plenty rich that Leno would make this remark, especially after violating the union rules during the writer’s strike last year: “There is enough work out there, so people shouldn’t necessarily be mad at me for taking the 10 o’clock spot.”

No wonder his jokes are awful; his writers clearly hate him.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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