There is something epic in the slash-and-burn strategy (or lack of strategy) that's dispatching a wounded Jay Leno back to NBC's late-night schedule.
After gutting the 9 o'clock hour and damaging local newscasts at 10 (11 p.m. on the coasts), the killing machine is being sent to 10:35 p.m.
Now the classy Conan O'Brien says he's not participating in the slaughter of the venerable "Tonight Show" franchise and won't migrate to 11:05 (12:05 on the coasts, which means "Tonight" starts tomorrow).
How could it get worse for NBC?
Well, let's say Conan follows through on his remarkable Tuesday afternoon broadside and leaves the network, moving Leno back to the "Tonight Show."
Does anybody think Leno will reconstruct his old audience and recapture first place from David Letterman anytime soon? That's highly doubtful.
In the meantime, Letterman is using NBC's blundering as the focus of his humor, showing that the wounds from the late night wars of the early 1990s are just below the surface with the meaner than normal "Big Jaw Leno" nickname for Leno.
"I knocked off another competitor," Letterman said last night in response to O'Brien's refusal to accept the later late shift.
At the same time, on NBC, O'Brien was making fun of NBC.
"When I was a little boy, I remember watching 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson' and thinking 'Someday, I’m going to host that show for seven months.'"
It's not clear how long the network will let that go on. While it's drawing attention to NBC, it's not good attention.
In short, it's not clear how NBC gets out of this without major ratings damage, which translates into major advertising damage which translates into major financial damage.
It's not clear how Leno gets out of this without major damage to his reputation short of him pulling a Conan and walking away from the network.
That doesn't fit in with his carefully cultivated good soldier image, but it would provide an uplifting ending to this mess.
Talking about NBC's mess: I'll be joining Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio -- that's WHAD-FM (90.7) in Milwaukee -- in the 8 a.m. hour Thursday to talk about the "Tonight Show" fiasco. Call in to share your thoughts on the situation.
On TV: When the 26th season of Milwaukee Public TV's "Outdoor Wisconsin" launches Thursday night at 8 on Channel 10 it won't only boast its original host, Dan Small. It's producer has been Jack Abrams since the show premiered in 1984.
- ABC says it's renewing "The Middle," "Cougar Town," and the best of its Wednesday night sitcoms, "Modern Family," for next fall.
- The L.A. Times says, Fox's "Our Little Genius" will likely be back -- minus eight episodes where young contestants may have received improper coaching.
- Tila Tequila was scheduled to appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, but the "reality" TV performer's appearance was canceled. No reason was given for dropping her.
The first "Idol" standout: Tuesday's premiere of Simon Cowell's last season of "American Idol" brought in the large audience you'd expect.
Nearly one in five southeast Wisconsin homes, more than a quarter of the TVs on at the time, were tuned to Channel 6, according to early overnight numbers from Nielsen Media Research.
The two hours of auditions featured the usual collection of talent and comedy.
A half-hour after annoying auditioner Andrew Fenlon's Boston tryout (he did a lackluster version of "House of the Rising Sun"), two fan pages had launched in his honor on Facebook. A third followed quickly.
Here's a look at the guy who's attracting all these fans.