Hollywood Reporter Delivers a Leno Lollapalooza

You’d think a guy who took a huge pay cut in 2012 on behalf of one of NBC’s few TV ratings hits would be bullet proof within the network’s executive ranks. But while Matthew Belloni’s Hollywood Reporter cover story about Jay Leno does not pinpoint the two “high-level industry sources” that leaked information to colleague Kim Masters for a March 1 item, the embattled Tonight Show host clearly believes the bleed was carved from the Peacock. Rather than, say, a Big Four talent agency or entertainment attorney’s office.

From Belloni’s piece:

Sources say Leno, when he signed his most recent deal, expected it could be his last at the network. But he is said to have been upset by what he perceived to be an NBC leak to THR and by the prospect of another messy transition that would play out in the press.

Can’t blame (the soon-to-be 63-year-old) Leno for that. No comedian likes to be so consistently heckled, even a road warrior like Leno. The prospect of 16 more months of media-amplified cat calls of “You suck!” is no laughing matter.

The THR issue has some great sidebars to go along with the main Leno feature. Dick Cavett recalls ticking-time-bomb Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, “the most socially uncomfortable man I think I ever met.” And former Tonight Show writer Jimmy Brogan gives Leno the full credit the chin-meister deserves, highlighting the host’s insane daily Tonight Show routine and some 1970s-80s comedy club triumphs.

Meanwhile, gussying up the Belloni cover story are an extended Robert Klein quote, a funny imagining by former David Letterman show writer and paramour Merrill Markoe of an NBC executive conversation and a timeline of Tonight Show tumult.

According to Belloni (who got reporting contributions from Alex Ben Block, Paul Bond, Marisa Guthrie and Lacey Rose), The Tonight Show currently pulls in a yearly profit of between $20 and $30 million. So essentially, this latest round of media backstabbing amounts to NBC spitting out a two-decade minimum and yelling at a guy who returns to them somewhere between $55,000 and $83,000 net… a day.