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Rival Nets Leap All Over Leno. NBC? Not So Much

The late-night wackiness is big news all over — “The Today Show” isn’t as interested, however

The pundits were in overdrive spinning the story of NBC’s late-night crisis, which got big treatment on two of three network morning shows Friday.

Guess which one pretty much ignored the story?

While ABC’s "Good Morning America" and CBS’ "The Early Show" both devoted significant airtime to Late Night Crisis 2010, "Today" gave relatively short shrift to the drama unfolding at its own network. It offered up just over a minute of coverage, most of it devoted to Jay Leno joking about the situation on his Thursday show.

When Matt Lauer noted that there were lots of rumors but not many answers, Ann Curry (filling in for Meredith Vieira) shot back with a pretty awesome quip.

"You’d think with all our contacts we’d be able to get better answers," Curry said, smiling.

Oh, Ann!

Meanwhile, on the other morning programs, media mavens were falling all over themselves to see who could describe the Leno-Conan mishegas in the starkest terms possible. 

"It’s the biggest boneheaded move since New Coke," declared the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, who somehow ended up on "GMA" despite the fact that the Post’s Lisa de Moraes and Paul Farhi did the heavy lifting on the story in today’s paper.

 

Kurtz also spun the lame meme that viewers are somehow rejecting O’Brien’s show because the host is just too wacky and weird for 11:35. He didn’t mention the massively lower lead-ins O’Brien is getting, or the fact that Leno, the very center of middle America, struggled in second place vs. the edgy David Letterman for two full years before becoming the once (and future?) King of Late Night.

In addition to a live interview segment, "GMA" also did a taped news package on The Crisis. That segment featured Variety TV editor Michael Schneider (full disclosure: I worked with him for nearly a decade) sounding off on just how bad things were for NBC right now.

"The problem is: Jay’s damaged now, Conan’s damaged and The Tonight Show’s damaged," Schneider said.

Schneider actually may win the Media Whore of the Day award– his term, not mine! — since he also popped on "The Early Show." On that program, he declared Leno a possible winner in this whole mess.

"He gets to move back to 11:30, which is where he dominated late night for 15 years… He just wants to tell jokes on television and he loves that 11:30 time slot," he opined. "So if anybody won yesterday, it was Leno and the NBC affiliates, which now finally, hopefully, get a real lead-in again at 10:00."

Another analyst — Craig Tomashoff, the executive editor of TV Guide — was harsher on Leno.

"I don’t think anything worked for Jay Leno at 10," he said on "Early Show." "Audiences didn’t come, the show wasn’t very funny, there was no buzz about it, except negative buzz."

Friday’s media pile-on followed some harsh coverage on cable news Thursday. CNN’s Anderson Cooper was particularly blunt in its assessment of the situation on-air.

"NBC appears to be folding its hand, reshuffling the deck and apparently licking its wounds," Cooper said in a tease for the first of two segments on The Crisis.

Later, the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, interviewed by Cooper, likened NBC’s moves to "shooting yourself in the mouth."

In late night, CBS’s Craig Ferguson also offered his take on the situation, as we noted last night. Video of that bit below: