'The Tonight Show' experiences dark days

The NBC program starring Jay Leno suffers a ratings slide and layoffs amid instability in the TV business — and after network missteps. And the stakes are rising.

As the No. 1 late-night show for most of the past half-century, "The Tonight Show" has been vital to NBC's fortunes. It was the network's most profitable entertainment program during its 1990s peak, kicking an estimated $100 million to the bottom line annually.



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