Fox News analyst and political lightning rod Sarah Palin crossed the network divide last night to appear on NBC’s ‘The Tonight Show.’ Neither she nor host Jay Leno seemed to know why she was there. Ratings, of course.
Now that he’s back at ‘Tonight,’ Leno and his team are definitely working overtime to ensure NBC wins the late night ratings game. They succeeded on Monday and, considering the amount of hype around Palin’s visit, which was first publicized last month, I’m betting NBC bested David Letterman last night. And that was the point, because, even before Palin sat down, it was clear she and Leno weren’t going to break any new ground. And they didn’t.
Leno and company claimed that the Palin appearance was her first late night talk show. That was not true, for Palin was on the ‘Tonight Show’ itself just last December, when O’Brien was still the host. Last night’s appearance represented something of a white-washing for the network, then, leaving Leno and Palin with little to discuss.
Leno offered a rambling introduction for Palin, whom he described as the former Alaska Governor, John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate, the author of Going Rogue and a Fox News contributor. Those are all true statements, although none seem new or exciting enough to warrant ‘Tonight Show’ time, thus leaving Leno and Palin to discuss topics we’ve heard about already. Does Palin court controversy? No, but she’s not one to “sit down and shut up.” Does her father offer political advice? No, he keeps his opinions to ammunition and other down home topic.
As for her gig on Fox, Palin told Leno she feels, after all the media abuse, that she’s come “full circle,” especially considering that she studied journalism. The game’s changed now, though, because the news game’s so opinion-driven. She “wanted to build some trust back in the media. I think the mainstream media is quite broken,” explained Palin, who then claimed she joined Fox because it’s fair and balanced. Leno, surprisingly, kept his mouth shut, only suggesting that people watch as many news channels as possible.
While they were on the topic of the media, Palin also lamented that journalists had been unfair to her and asked journalists and other muckrakers leave her children, some of whom she brought out for a shoot with tabloid In Touch, out of the picture.
Other topics includes the ‘Family Guy’ controversy, which Palin thought was overblown, and the much ballyhooed fact that she wrote notes on her hand, which she charmingly described as a “poor boy’s teleprompter.” The two also discussed the Tea Party movement, a movement Palin calls a “beautiful” “uprising for the people” that offer “common sense solutions.” Though she admits the Tea Party movement draws more from the Republican camp, she’s still proud to campaign for her former running mate, John McCain, who’s facing a tough Senatorial fight in Arizona.
The entire conversation played out as one would expect. There were, however, two distinct moments that deserve a little attention. First, Leno obviously bristled when, while discussing media mistreatment, Palin mentioned the late night wars between him and former ‘Tonight Show’ host Conan O’Brien. Leno rapidly shooed her away from the scandal, but it came up again later, when Leno asked Palin to do a stand-up routine.
The routine itself, though a bit awkward, went off rather well: a remarkably brave Palin joked about how the Winter Olympics – skiing, bobsledding – remind her of the morning commute in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. Then there was a dig at Joe Biden: “I’m glad I’m not vice president. I don’t know what I would do with the free time.” Things went south, however, when Palin geared up for her final bit: she compared the media’s treatment of her with that of jay Leno during the aforementioned O’Brien battle. Leno shot up from his desk and ended it there. Palin didn’t seem too flustered. She had already started walking off stage to leave the studio.
While those at home may have had varied reactions to Palin’s appearance, the studio audience ate it up. The cheers were vociferous throughout her time with Leno, an indicator that Leno likely brought in millions of Palin supporters during last night’s broadcast. If that’s true, then both Leno and Palin won last night’s game.