Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That's show business

Sometimes I'm accused of taking the newspaper business too seriously. Have fun with it, I've been urged. Indeed, I've counseled the same to young editors, reporters and would-be journalists.

So, yes, I see the humor in talk show host Jay Leno showing up in disguise at the Television Critics Association's press conference with NBC executives in Los Angeles(a stunt similar to the one pulled days earlier by fellow talk show host Jimmy Kimmel at the ABC press conference).

A bald, goateed Leno posed as a reporter to pepper questions at NBC executives regarding his future. (Several years ago, NBC and Leno announced he'd be leaving "The Tonight Show" in 2009 in favor of Conan O'Brien - who in turn will be replaced in the 12:30 a.m. time slot by Saugerties native Jimmy Fallon.) Now that the time is drawing near -- Leno's last "Tonight" will be May 29 -- Leno reportedly isn't so eager to leave. A bidding war for his services is likely. Thus, Leno asked NBC what's up. (How about a fifth hour of "The Today Show"?, Leno jabbed.)

Leno's stint as a "reporter" was good theater, got some laughs and lots of publicity, and he put a face on the big-money entertainment business. (NBC execs handled it well, by the way;I'm not certain if they were in on the gag.)

But at the end of the day, this was a press conference for the working stiffs in print, broadcast and on-line. I suppose a few of them, like me, take the business seriously. They couldn't have pleased to be part of a carnival side show.

Then again, so much of entertainment reporting these days seems like an extension of what the studio PR machines crank out. The Leno story wrote itself. For a reporter, that's a good day.
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