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Hosts ratchet up late night "war"; Tavis Smiley not amused

Winter TV Press Tour 2010

PBS's Tavis Smiley had appeared at Winter TV Press Tour 2010 to plug his new series "Tavis Smiley Reports," but, naturally, got asked about NBC's Great Late Night Trainwreck.

"As a black guy on PBS, making what I make, it's hard to feel sorry for either one of these guys, given the money that Conan is going to leave with and the money that Jay is going to keep, staying at NBC," said Smiley, who calls Leno a personal friend, and had the talk show host on his PBS show before Leno's 10 p.m. NBC series debuted. "It's hard for me to feel sorry for either one of them, quite frankly. But it has been fascinating to watch, and I just think that there are lessons to be learned."

Among the things we've learned: petulance is great for ratings. Late night shows have enjoyed ratings boosts this week as various hosts have focused their monologue energies on whacking NBC and each other.

Conan O'Brien continues to ratchet up his "war" against NBC over its plans to shuffle him -- and "The Tonight Show" -- off to 12:05 a.m. in order to return Jay Leno to late night. Wednesday, he not-so-subtle-y enlisted "30 Rock's" Kenneth the Page to give tours of his "former" swanky new Blue Studio in Burbank.

Even more ham handed, David Letterman used his opening monologue to take wide, wild swings at his former place of employment -- though, gee, wasn't 15 years ago? -- with clever lines about like, "the mouthbreathers that were running [NBC]."

But if you think that's clumsy, Leno shot his wad Wednesday wondering what Conan's whining about, given that his show lasted seven months, while he, Jay Leno, is getting yanked after just four.

ABC late night star Jimmy Kimmel who, Tuesday night, had once again donned his Leno suit for that whole night, will be Leno's "10 questions" guest at 10 tonight.

And out there in the blogosphere, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker may -- or may not -- be threatening to put Conan on ice for years to come unless he backs down on his threat to walk away from "The Tonight Show" with its later start time. Just what NBC needs -- a late night comedy host who's angry and bitter.

Here are all the clips:

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 14, 2010; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  Winter TV Press Tour 2010  
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