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Jimmy Kimmel Live 

Jimmy Kimmel stands up to the popular kid in late-night television

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There's a part in nearly every teen movie where the heroine finally, in front of the entire prom, stands up to the evil popular girl. Last week, that heroine was late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

“Who?” you ask. “Do you mean late-night host Jimmy Fallon?” There’s a reason Kimmel gets lost in the crowd. He seems more like a SportsCenter host than a comedian. He’s a genial guy, has a witty line once in a while, pulls the occasional funny prank — but rarely does anyone ever say, “Hey, did you see what they did on Kimmel last week?” But then NBC’s late-night lineup went to hell. The “move Jay Leno to 10 pm” experiment dramatically failed. NBC wanted to create a new half-hour Jay Leno show at 11:35, bumping Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show to 12:05 am. Conan, not wanting to screw with the 60-year Tonight Show franchise, refused to move. Leno had no such reservations.

Blood was in the water, and the late-night sharks lunged. Letterman ran a “Law and Order: Leno Victims Unit” parody; Craig Ferguson called NBC “lying rat bastards.”

But Kimmel — Kimmel did an entire hour-long show as Jay Leno.

The phony prosthetic chin. The squeaky, lisping voice. The decade-old Clinton jokes. It was a perfect parody, a merciless mockery of mediocrity.

Not since Norm MacDonald’s Bob Saget roast segment has there been such a splendid example of hilarious anti-humor.

Leno then invited Kimmel for his “10 at 10” questions segment, perhaps thinking Kimmel would be less brutal in person. No such luck:

“You’re known for pranks,” Leno says. “What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?” “I told a guy that fi ve years from now, I’m going to give you my show,” Kimmel replies. “Then when the fi ve years came, I took it back almost instantly.”

Ever order anything off the TV? Jay asks. “Like NBC ordered your show off the TV?” Kimmel zings back. Leno: What show do you want to host? “This is a trick, right? Where you get me to host The Tonight Show and take it back from me?” Kimmel says. “Listen, Lucy, I’m not Charlie Brown. I don’t fall for that trick.”

Part of Leno’s success is audiences seeing him as a nice guy. Kimmel is rising from obscurity because he knows how to be sublimely cruel.


TIVO-WORTHY

The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien Some people take being fired in stride. They clean out their desk quietly, they shake hands goodbye, they apologize for not being better. Others burn the building down. In his last days as Tonight Show host, Conan’s been the latter type, and delightfully so. On his last show, he just may have a word or two to say about NBC’s business strategy. (Series finale Friday, Jan. 22, 11:35 pm on NBC)

Hope for Haiti While the humanitarian situation in earthquake-pummeled Haiti may not be quite as emotionally gripping as the bickering between late-night talk show hosts, MTV and a swarm of networks are presenting a commercial-free telethon, chock full of star-studded musical performances, to raise funds for relief efforts. (Friday, Jan. 22, 8 pm on MTV, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and more)

Damages Glenn Close, if you haven’t noticed, is a strong woman. When she’s not skinning puppies for their coats or boiling her former lovers’ pet rabbits, she’s suing powerful men as a ruthless attorney in the ever-plot-twisty Damages. (Premieres Monday, Jan. 25, 10 pm on FX)


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