Trump "Fires" Leno on Final Prime-Time Show

"Jay Leno Show" ends ill-fated prime time run

By Caitlin Millat and Greg Wilson
|  Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010  |  Updated 12:13 PM CDT
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Jay Leno quietly ended his brief foray into prime-time television Tuesday evening.

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Jay Leno quietly ended his brief foray into prime-time television Tuesday evening, as he bid goodbye to "The Jay Leno Show" before returning to his "Tonight" roots -- and was officially "fired" on-air by Donald Trump himself.

The final episode of "The Jay Leno Show," which began its run Sept. 14, 2009, aired Tuesday night on NBC, just five months after its premiere. Leno will move back to "The Tonight Show" March 1, taking back the program from his former replacement Conan O'Brien, who ended his version of "Tonight" last month.

Leno opened the show with a few pot-shots at NBC, jokes that have become par for the course in Leno and O'Brien's monologues of late.

Like O'Brien, whose "Tonight" aired for seven months, Leno joked about how short-lived his program was.

The host stepped on-stage to a rowdy round of applause, then asked the audience: "Where were you the last five months? That's what I want to know."

Leno continued the jabs, saying his "show was supposed to last two years, but my sentence was reduced to five months thanks to good behavior."

"Guys on Viagra had erections that lasted longer than me," Leno said.

He took a page from O'Brien's final-show handbook by creating a flashback montage, entitled "A Look Back," which showed highlights from the past five months, including doctored-up footage of Leno pulling into a parking lot equipped with the sign "No parking after February 9."

The segment also included fake clips of Leno trying to capture a "younger demographic" by texting his jokes instead of saying them out loud to his audience and giving his monologue while doing tricks on a skateboard.

Leno ended the monologue with a visit from The Donald himself, who put on his "Apprentice" hat to "fire" the host.

"I just wanted to tell you that your bosses at NBC have asked me to pass along a special message to you, Jay," Trump said. "You know why? Because they don't have the guts to do it themselves.

"You're fired," Trump said.

Guests on the show included actor Ashton Kutcher, who threw a football around with NFL star Kurt Warner while in a fake rainstorm, "Precious" actress Gabourney Sidibe and sportscaster Bob Costas. O'Brien's final show, for his part, was filled with celebrity guests, including Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell, as well as musicians ZZ Top and Beck, who joined O'Brien for a final, musical performance of "Freebird." 

Leno will return to his old job on "The Tonight Show" on March 1. Leno was host of the venerable show from 1992-2008, taking over for Johnny Carson.

He'll be going up against longtime adversary David Letterman, who hosts CBS' the "Late Show." The two appeared together on a Hilarious Super Bowl ad, separated by Oprah Winfrey. Leno told his audience Monday night that he  had a blast doing the show with Letterman, even though the two have taken brutal personal shots at each other in recent weeks.

“I walk in and I see Dave," Leno said of the shoot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater. "He puts his hand out and we shake hands. And you know, whatever happened the last 18 years disappeared.

"It was great to see my old friend again. It was wonderful… We talked about the old days. We told some jokes. It was really good to see him.”

NBC replaced Leno with Conan O'Brien last June, hoping the younger comic could keep the show at No. 1 by spreading its appeal to a younger demographic. At the same time, the network gambled that moving Leno to prime time would be a fresh an less expensive alternative to scripted dramas. But "The Tonight Show" lost audience share and Leno's prime time show also fared poorly in the ratings, prompting a messy and well-chronicled backtrack.

Leno agreed to go back to his old gig, but O'Brien split with NBC, taking a reported $33 million buyout.

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