In the future, everyone will be compared to Hitler for fifteen minutes…Posted: January 26, 2010
This editorial comes from The Wall Street Journal, but since it’s one of those articles that takes a tenuous conceit that you can build a headline around and stretches the metaphor way past the point of coherence, you’d swear it came from Slate.
Cultural historians are desperately seeking a precedent to the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien fiasco. They are looking in the wrong places. True, Pat Sajak, Chevy Chase and Joan Rivers all got axed from late-night talk shows after shockingly brief stints at the helm, but none of them got $32.5 million to take a hike. And none of them got replaced by the person they had replaced. And none of them pouted about getting canned for general incompetence while millions of their countrymen—who had not actually failed at their jobs—were unable to find work.
No, the most appropriate parallel to the debacle that has humiliated NBC took place in central Europe in the late 1930s. It happened at Munich.
Jay Leno, much like Adolf Hitler, is a master of making secret demands for foreign territory and then acting like the wronged party. First he pretended that he wanted to annex only the first half-hour of Mr. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show.” Here he was mimicking Hitler, who insisted that he merely wanted to annex the German-speaking Sudetenland, not all of Czechoslovakia.
Then, adopting the craven British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as a role model, NBC stabbed Mr. O’Brien in the back by agreeing to let Mr. Leno reoccupy the first segment of his old “Tonight Show” slot. NBC’s defense was that Mr. O’Brien had dismal ratings, and the show was a bit of a mess. But the same can be said about Czechoslovakia, a hodgepodge cobbled together after the First World War that never really got its act together.
I guess it says something about my tastes that I was more upset by the author’s unfair claims about Conan’s “pouting” than the hyperbolic comparisons of Leno to der Fuhrer.