If you haven't heard, six years ago, Jay Leno planned to retire from the Tonight Show in 2009. Conan O'Brien would take over the 11:35 PM institution, following in the talented footsteps of Jack Paar, Steve Allen, and Johnny Carson. Conan passed up other lucrative opportunities because of this plan, contract, and commitment.
Apparently Jay decided he didn't want to go last year. He began undermining Conan almost from the start, with his silly 10:PM show that cannibalized Conan's ratings, indicated NBC gave up on prime time, and cost local news stations a fortune. But that wasn't enough.
Now, Jay apparently wants his old job back and NBC is content to treat Conan quite shabbily in order to appease Jay.
NBC already let the brilliant David Letterman get away. Now they are trying to chase away the future again, but doing this to Conan.
Today, Conan released a statement and announced he would not do the Tonight Show at 12:05:
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.
He went on to say that pushing the show back to keep him on the air would not be fair to his own replacment, Jimmy Fallon.
He mentions a few current and former members of the latenight community.
- Jimmy Fallon
- David Letterman
- Johnny Carson
- "My predecessor"
You can see the letter here. It's a great read. What strikes me is that even though Conan has chosen to go public with his anger and animosity, he's done it in such a way that he is still a class act.
Jay Leno, on the other hand, comes across as the 21 year old guy who never went to college, and still hangs out at the local high school to pick up 17 year olds. Let it go, Jay.
What do I want to see happen now?
I think is would be awesome to see David Letterman, who has his own issues with NBC over how they treated him when Jay originally go the tonight show, negotiate an early end to his contract so Conan can take over Letterman's show, and then smash Jay in the ratings. I could see Letterman doing this just to mess with NBC and Jay Leno.
It may be more likely that Conan goes to FOX, but this would be an awesome way for Letterman to go out.