Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conan O'Brien: A Class Act

It has been in the news for the past month or so now and I have finally decided to write a blog with my input about it. The battle for Late Night...Leno vs. O'brien...Conan vs. Jay.

A little over 5 years ago, Conan O'Brien was about to leave NBC. Since Conan O'Brien was doing so well on the Late Night Show and NBC didn't want to lose him, they told him that in 5 years that he would be taking over The Tonight Show. Jay Leno agreed that in 5 years the torch would be moving on to Conan O'Brien.

Conan took over for Jay Leno in the Summer of 2009. NBC didn't want to say goodbye to Leno though and asked him to do a weekly show at 10pm (leading into the news). Jay Leno agreed to this though he thought the idea wouldn't work.

Fast forward to the present. Jay Leno's earlier 10pm show has not worked. The ratings have been terrible. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien had not fared much better as ratings were low as well. NBC then had a BRILLIANT IDEA...or so they thought. They would ask Jay Leno to move back to his Tonight Show time of 11:35pm and do a half hour show and Conan O'Brien would then start The Tonight Show at 12:05am and Jimmy Fallon (who took over for Conan on the Late Night Show) would start at 1:05am (instead of 12:35am) and Carson Daly would...ah forget it, nobody watches Carson Daly.

Jay Leno said he was on board with the new idea, though not liking the idea of a half hour show, and as long as it was okay with Conan O'Brien. Conan O'Brien was not okay with the idea though (and rightfully so)....he released a statement which read as follows:

People of Earth:
In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.



After this statement was released, NBC decided any change would be stupid and everything would remain the same. OH WAIT, no they didn't. NBC decided it would be better to give Jay Leno back Tonight Show at 11:35pm and given Conan O'Brien a now reported 45 million buyout on the rest of his contract. Conan is then allowed to go and join any network he wants to in the fall. There sure has not been a lack of jokes from Late Night talk shows about the whole ordeal... Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Letterman, Craig Ferguson, all with other networks, have even chimed in on the situation.

Everyone seems to have the same opinion too. Conan got screwed. (and no one cares about Carson Daly)

It looks as though Conan only has two shows left as host of The Tonight Show and I have made sure to watch every show the past week or so and they have all been incredibly funny. Conan's ratings have gone up 50% the past few weeks as well...but it is too little too late. Rallies have been formed, shirts have been made, but The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien will soon come to an end.... after he was given 7 months to make it work.

Wherever Conan goes, I will follow.