The Tonight Show With Jay Leno is consistently the #1 rated program in late night television. Dave does occasionally squeak out a ratings victory, but "Tonight" usually tops the charts. The preceding fact just makes the following news all the more perplexing, as Deadline is reporting that The Tonight Show has just laid off at least twenty staffers (some reports say the number is closer to twenty-five).
Why would the #1 show in late night need to shed staff? Apparently it's related to Comcast's purchase of NBC. Industry sources say that the cable giant is going over NBC's financials with a fine-toothed comb, and trying to make up any budget shortfalls they find by cutting expenses in other areas. So in reality, the downsizing at "Tonight" is more likely related to NBC's poor general financial state as a network than it is to any actual problem with the show's performance itself.
Now, I'm about to do something I almost never do. I'm going to speak positively about Jay Leno. I don't have anything against the guy personally, but I find him to be terribly unfunny, and I still think he handled the Conan situation poorly. That said, the man takes care of his staff. Some of you may recall that Jay paid his staff out of pocket for a large portion of the 2007-2008 writers' strike. While that was certainly a kind gesture, Leno went above and beyond that with his latest act of generosity.
Jay is said to have been making about 30 million bucks a year for his hosting gig, and when corporate came swinging the ax, Leno volunteered to take what is being described as a "tremendous" pay cut in order to save as many jobs as he could. Now, I'm not saying that we should feel sorry for Jay here. He's a millionaire many times over, and really doesn't need the money. That said, the point is that he didn't have to do this. The man just willingly sacrificed millions of dollars to prevent the normal earners on his staff from losing their livelihoods. Those actions truly are commendable.
Is it wrong for Comcast to fire people in order to make up for poor corporate decision making? Should Jay Leno be applauded for his willingness to help his staff?
Update: Various sources, including the Associated Press, are reporting that Leno's pay cut may have been as much as ten million dollars a year.