Jay Leno's bizarre feud with NBC is back on simmer — and back where it began. After giving his streak of one bad joke about his employers per night a bit of a rest following a week of hatred in the papers and on-air, Leno took to the opening monologue of last night's Tonight Show to ridicule the network's second-place finish during prime time on Wednesday night:
Folks, listen to this. Monday night the prime time shows The Voice and Revolution moved NBC in the number two position. You know what that means? Between Easter and Passover, this is truly the season of miracles. We're number two! I've been saying for the last week that NBC is a big number two.
And, really, that's how this whole debacle began — with ratings. Before a report by Bill Carter in The New York Times dropped in the middle of last week suggesting NBC was getting ready to move The Tonight Show to New York for Jimmy Fallon, a blog post by Carter suggested the root cause of the beef: Leno and NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt were trading emails about how Leno needed to lay off the ratings jokes, with Leno "taken by surprise" and "strongly" defending himself.
And, well, Leno has certainly been defending himself by way of his monologue soapbox, but now he's back on the attack with ratings talk, and his boss, Greenblatt, is the man responsible for ratings. Which would lead on to ask: Isn't this just a race back to the bottom? It's unclear what Leno is hoping to accomplish here. TV ratings are largely insider fare — those jokes can only be told so many times, and they get less and less funny — and Leno needs all the support he can get from NBC's corporate leadership right now if wants to protect his show from Fallon. Maybe that TMZ report — that NBC is sticking with Leno through fall 2014 — is true, and Leno feels insulated until then. Which means we might have a year and a half of bad ratings jokes to withstand.
Watch Leno's Wednesday night monologue below: