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Conan to NBC: No way

Two days after NBC announced it would move Jay Leno back to late night to host a half hour talk show that starts at 11:35 p.m. and move "The Tonight Show" to 12:05 a.m. with Conan O'Brien continuing to host, Conan has put out word - to the People of the Earth, no less - that he refuses to host "The Tonight Show" if NBC follows through on its announced plans.

Here is Conan's statement:

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.

Yours,

Conan

Poll: Did Conan O'Brien make the right move?


By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 12, 2010; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Comments

NBC does not deserve a performer with such class and humility. It's said how far the network has fallen, so quickly.

Posted by: mchoya | January 12, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Good for him. Classy statement.

Posted by: Louise9 | January 12, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Jeff Zucker (Harvard '86) kept up with O'Brien (Harvard '85) in reading up on Graham Allison's decision-making models.

Looks like we're heading straight for Allison's Model 3!

Posted by: bs2004 | January 12, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

When do you think Conan is going to catch on to the fact that Jay had a lot to do with this and that he (Jay) is just playing dumb... Of course the man wants his timeslot back! And why no; Conan is driving it into the ground like a runaway freigh train!

Posted by: ITSec_Guy | January 12, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Classy and funny response. I hope he walks away with millions.

Posted by: pirate1 | January 12, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Mchoya - If "class" and "humility" brought in ratings then we'd all be sitting around watching Hee Haw...

Posted by: ITSec_Guy | January 12, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Eff jay Leno! Remember what he did to Letterman to get 'The Tonight Show' in the first place. Leno is a two-faced P.O.S. who cannot be trusted.

So GOOD FOR CONAN that he is calling NBC's bluff!

Your move, NBC!

Posted by: whatyoutalkinboutman | January 12, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I think Jay should work harder to build the lead-in audience to the Tonight Show from his 10 p.m. slot so maybe someday he can host it.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Adios!

Posted by: shadowshopper1981 | January 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Since Conan O'Brien took over the Tonight Show, it has been a disaster. His humor is mostly suited for the mentally retarded!

Posted by: pedjr336 | January 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I'll follow CoCo wherever he ends up

Posted by: vankrasn | January 12, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Can't say that I blame him.

The whole thing has been a giant debacle. Jay should have stuck to his plan - the plan he announced years ago - to step aside and give Conan the Tonight Show.

But Jay didn't step aside. He stood there while NBC shoveled in a bunch of crappy ideas, and then Jay stepped in the crap and then he dragged the crap all over the schedule and kicked some crap over Conan's way.

Had Jay done the right thing - stuck to his word - and told NBC their stupid Prime Time Jay way Prime Time craptastic, then nobody would be in the mess they are now.

Conan is doing the only thing he can.

Posted by: molsonmich | January 12, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Good for Conan. I hope he goes to Fox...I'll follow him there, just as I followed him from 12:30 (well, at least DVRing him at 12:30...I haven't stayed up that late since college)

Posted by: DocHolliday1906 | January 12, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ditch all the late night talking heads, Leno, Conan, Letterman, the whole bunch. Scooby Do cartoons would be better.

Posted by: jones911gmailcom | January 12, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Conan has improved the Tonight Show 100% and NBC would be STUPID to force him out. If he goes to another network, I will follow. Jay Leno is really behind this and is willing to destroy another comedian's career to get want HE wants. Conan O-Brian waited patiently for his turn at the Tonight Show and should not be forced out with less than a year behind him. NBC really sucks!

Posted by: PepperDr | January 12, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Jay Leno is unwatchable, good for you Conan for standing your ground. Its the Tonight show, not the 'Just after Midnight' show. Get Leno off the air. Please.

Posted by: sandradbeachbum | January 12, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

In my humble opinion, NBC needs Conan. Yes, he may have been with the peacock for 16 years before he was given this opportunity, but he is a breath of fresh air to a network that has increasingly become stale, stagnant and a joke. Conan saw through their bluff and I think he is making the right decision. The executives made blunder after blunder and Conan's sagging ratings are not solely his fault. I guess NBC doesn't understand that transitions from an older age deomographic that is tradionally "Tonight," to a crowd that is on average 10 years younger, takes time to set solid roots in ratings. I really believe that NBC is worse off without Conan. Classy statement from a classy guy. Honestly, I hope that he FOX gives him a spot to do a late-night show and he will be given a chance to crush NBC in the ratings. Then again, with the trash and utterly vanilla shows they are showing, that shouldn't be a problem at all.

Posted by: hawkbone86 | January 12, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I'll take Conan over Jay any day!

Posted by: Eradicator | January 12, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

NBC should be ashamed of itself. Even if you don't like Conan's show (what's NOT to like???) he's clearly trying his ass off. Leno had a chance to make 10pm into something - the network was depending on it - and he FAILED. Why does get another chance (at the same time ruining Conan & Jimmy Fallon's chances)? Like Letterman, Conan has worked to make nothing (that after midnight timeslot) into something genius. It baffles me that NBC still can't see the value in that.

TEAM CONAN!

Posted by: moi1 | January 12, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

NBC has really screwed this one up! If they knew Leno was their sole bread winner for late night...They should had worked it out before announcing his retirment...Only to be asked to come back at prime-time...Then asked to return back to late night...

WHY WOULD THEY TRY PUTTING LENO UP AGAINST OLBERMAN IS JEALOUSY ON GREGORY AND WILLIAMS PART IF YOU ASK ME

NBC AS LONG AS YOU HAVE BRIAN WILLIAMS PROMOTING HIS CONSERVATIVE VIEWS ALONG WITH DAVID GREGORY'S....MEET THE PRESS ON NBC....YOU WILL LOSE B-I-G-G-E-R THAN EVER!!!!


Knew got-darn well they couldn't tap into Keith Olbermann watchers!!

GREGORY, WILLIAMS AND TODD - DOES NOT EVEN COME CLOSE IN FILLING RUSSERT SHOES

LORD KNOWS I MISS TIM RUSSERT - HE WAS JUST PUTTING YOU GUYS BACK ON THE MAP

RACHAEL AND KEITH SHOULDN'T HAVE TO CARRY A BIG PRIMETIME STATION BUT THEY DO!!!!

Posted by: danders5000 | January 12, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Go Conan!

Posted by: BeavisfromMontana | January 12, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

What a classy, decent, and funny response. I like how he included Jimmy Fallon and said that he won't force Jimmy to 1 AM by agreeing to move to midnight (a veiled shot at Leno, of course).

I will follow him and watch his show wherever he goes. LONG LIVE CONANDO!

Posted by: playahatah | January 12, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Classy Job Conan.

But now you need to be the other Conan, Conan the Destroyer and kill the tonight show. Take jay's lame ass headlines bit and just read classifieds for 15 minutes straight, do street interviews of old people asking them about why their grandkids don't write letter to them.

Burn the show down!

Posted by: stikyfingas | January 12, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh my gosh, he's hilarious. And to be honest with you, I would have done the exact same thing. Screw the 12:05am slot!

By the way, this is breaking news?

Posted by: lwaya2 | January 12, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

mchoya uses the right words: class and humility. He's a person who has values and can stick with them. Good for him. He'll land on his feet wherever he goes.

Posted by: cuadro | January 12, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Much as I agree with Conan here, a public response isn't exactly a classy manuever even if done well. Then again, I don't know how you can call it a "Tonight" show if it begins airing in the AM hours so conventional logic seems to have nothing to do with this matter.

Posted by: JCritter | January 12, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

More people liked Jay Leno at 11.35 pm than like Conan O'Brien at 11.35.

It's all about ratings and NBC cannot afford to lose another dollar.

Their cash cow, "The Tonight Show", is running dry.

They are not about to let that happen.

Conan O'Brien is a dispensable commodity.

Adios, Coco.

Posted by: WhatHeSaid | January 12, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Conan could go back to the Simpsons. They could use him to make the show relevant again.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | January 12, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Is Jay Leno a creep or what? If he were a decent human being, he would refuse to take Conan's slot, but rather than paying the price for his own failure at 10pm, he's sticking it to Conan.

I never liked Leno, and I don't see how anyone could stand to watch that fake "nice guy" act after all this.

Posted by: writinron | January 12, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Conan did the smart thing. Being demoted because of NBC's bad management was bogus. Hope he gets the $45 million because NBC broke their 11:35 pm contract with him. Conan should go do a 11:00 pm show at FOX. He'll have the first half hour all to himself.

Posted by: buffysummers | January 12, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

The facts are the Conan's brand of humor was good for 12:30, but didn't translate to 11:30. He is drawing 2 million less viewers than Letterman, and 3 million less than what Leno averaged before. Coincidentally, Leno is averaging about the same viewership at 10 pm then what he did before at 11:30. It all comes down to business -- keep the person with the better ratings. If I were NBC, I would do the same given the pressure for ratings and profits.

Posted by: akc88 | January 12, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Sept. 27, 2004
Jay Leno will hand over the reins of NBC's "The Tonight Show" to "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien -- but not until 2009, the network announced Monday.

"In 2009, I'll be 59 years old and will have had this dream job for 17 years," Leno said in NBC's written statement. "I felt that the timing was right to plan for my successor and there is no one more qualified than Conan."

"Plus, I promised Mavis (his wife) I would take her out for dinner before I turned 60," Leno said.

Doesn't sound like a guy who had The Tonight Show cancelled out from under him.

Anybody who's not an NBC exec could see that Leno at 10pm was a bad idea from the start.
Jay needs to go gently into that good night. Or just go.

Posted by: Buckeye53 | January 12, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

danders5000 - congratulations for somehow figuring out a way to politicize a story that I didn't think could possibly be politicized! That was a neat trick.

Could you please move over to the message board which is talking about Domino's pizza? Rumor has it that Rush Limbaugh himself is behind the recent decline in Domino's pizza sales.

Posted by: Tinman1188 | January 12, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Conan is funny, Leno isn't. Too bad for Conan.

Posted by: liam358 | January 12, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Conan!

Posted by: mdem929 | January 12, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

What I still don't understand, is that if people were turning off their TV's or away from NBC because of the snooze-fest that is Jay Leno's 10 pm show, then by what logic does popping him back on at 11:30 make NBC any more appealing in late night?

Give Conan O'Brien time to grow his show without the albatross of Jay Leno hanging around his 10 pm neck and let's see how it goes. I'm in that coveted 18-49 group, and would much rather see Conan O'Brien than Jay Leno in that slot.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 12, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Zucker was stupid enough to let Simon Cowell get away instead of telling 1/4 to 1/3 of the affiliates to "stick it," while he dealt with the Comcast buyout as well as finalizing a deal to steal Cowell and "X-Factor" from Fox.

Letterman ought to have Conan on as a guest asap. That would be hilarious tv, even if both aren't as funny as Jay.

Leno...the guy with 9 lives and he hates cats!

Posted by: tcmits | January 12, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Conan has always been way funnier than Jay, period.

Posted by: bharn | January 12, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Conan. The man deserves no less than any of the previous hosts. NBC's proposal is ridiculous. Who's making the decisions over there, Warren Littlefield??

Posted by: biograph1985 | January 12, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

See what happened to Jay is that they tried to ram a late-night guy down the throats of the late prime audience. Flip over to ABC at 8 a.m. and you'll see them trying to ram a Sunday prima donna down the throats of a happy-off-to-school audience with Stephanopolous. Why won't they just watch what we tell them to? Don't they know the inconvenience they're causing?

Posted by: blasmaic | January 12, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Facts - Jay did not want to leave the Tonight Show. NBC forced him out despite high ratings(beating Letterman most nights). NBC was afraid of Conan going to another network so they promised him the Tonight Show and gave Jay a 5 year cancellation notice. Jay didn't want to give up the show but he played nice and said it was ok. As the time got close and Jay's ratings kept getting better, NBC was afraid of Jay going to another network so they offered him the 10 o'clock time slot. He could have said no, but chose to stay with the network with what was always a shaky idea. NBC has played this poorly from the outset 5 years ago when Conan said give me the Tonight show or I jump ship. Whether you prefer Jay or Conan or David, the bile and hate some of you are expressing is out of place and out of control. It's TV - late night, light entertainment. Cool it with the hate.

Posted by: brucesh1 | January 12, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I've always liked his hair.

Posted by: ratperson | January 12, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Ratings control everything. Conan was getting clobbered by Letterman, who is downright awful. It will be interesting to see whether Fox will offer Conan anything.

Posted by: sportsfan2 | January 12, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow. NBC has sure fallen off the mountain top. Leno is not drawing viewers because the prime time lineup is crap. Conan should not have to pay for that. He should jump ship and kick their a$$ on another network. I'd watch.

Posted by: VaBroker | January 12, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Team Conan.

Posted by: acasey2 | January 12, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Conan could have forced Leno's hand by calling his bluff and accepting the midnight slot. Because Leno never would have accepted a half hour show. But Conan didnt want to play that game. Conan's show at 11:30 has been mostly unwatchable but NBC and Leno are completely wrong here.

Posted by: dovelevine | January 12, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I think Jay Leno is TV's version of Brett Farve except for the fact that Brett Farve is part of a winning team right now. Brett might be upset at the Packers management but he has only himself to blame for how it turned out. Jay gave up the Tonight Show so he needs to go play for another team.

Posted by: shoreterp1 | January 12, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a classy response from a guy who has been treated shabbily by the network. The deal was that Leno was to retire, and Conan would take over the helm at the Tonight Show.

Whoever came up with the idea to 'program to the margins' and bring back Leno at 10 p.m. to avoid the cost of 'real' programming; well, the story was that Leno had reservations but agreed to the new/show/format to help NBC out. But in doing so, that naturally was no help to Conan.

Now, NBC still (evidently) wants to placate Leno by giving him another new/show/format and pushing back Conan and Fallon to accommodate that new half-hour show.

It's clear to me that the suits think Leno is of more value than Conan. I find this interesting considering his 10 p.m. show has been - well - lackluster is a kind word for it. Also, the man RETIRED. But still he is placated. I don't get it.

Conan's right: If the Tonight Show airs at 12:05 a.m., it isn't the Tonight Show anymore, it's the Tomorrow Show.

I don't know how NBC 'fixes' this, because they've made a hell of a mess. If they didn't really want to honor Conan's contract to take over the Tonight Show, they shouldn't have coaxed Leno into retirement. There's no question that Leno at 10 didn't work. I just don't get why Conan gets the punishment for their failure.

I think if Conan moved to Fox and had a late night show that started at 11 p.m., that would certainly make late night more interesting.

Posted by: NW_Washington | January 12, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I feel bad for Conan but business is business his show is bad ratings dismal he is great guy but ....... show sux they have to do something I was always a Letterman guy still am but Leno was far better than Conan bad mistake for all, all the way around

Posted by: lildg54 | January 12, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Conan is doing this because it is a breach in the contract on NBC's part. If he decides to not take the 12:05 slot, NBC has to pay him crazy money... Something like 80M. Go Conan, Conando!!!!

Posted by: Capsnskins1 | January 12, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Way to go Conan. I am a Letterman person, always was, always will be, and even though I would catch Conan when he was on at 12:30, I could not watch it all the time. Now I usually only watch Conan if Letterman is a rerun, but this is something I NEVER did with Leno. A Letterman rerun was a hundred times better then a new Leno. Who watches him anyway?

And Conan is correct, the network gave Leno time to get his ratinigs and they had good shows at 10pm to lead up to his show. When Leno took over from Carson his ratings also went down. But they gave him time to find an audience.

Leno already caused NBC to lose Letterman and now he is going to cause them to lose Conan. If I didn't like Craig Fergenson so much I would be hoping that Conan would again follow Letterman on CBS but I like Craig so I won't wish that.

NBC just needs to realize that the 10pm Leno experiment was a failure and pay him his millions that I am sure is in his contract and dump him. Keep Conan, he really is a brilliant guy.

I'm proud of Conan for standing up to NBC.

Posted by: jtsw | January 12, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

MY MY - THE PLOT THICKENS!!

Posted by: shes_cleva | January 12, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I have been watching Conan since he first came on the air 17 years ago. In my opinion, Conan is the funniest person in late night TV. He's most certainly funnier than Leno. I will watch Conan no matter where he ends up.

Posted by: wiz_fan | January 12, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"Facts - Jay did not want to leave the Tonight Show. NBC forced him out despite high ratings(beating Letterman most nights). NBC was afraid of Conan going to another network so they promised him the Tonight Show and gave Jay a 5 year cancellation notice. Jay didn't want to give up the show but he played nice and said it was ok." Posted by: brucesh1

It's that last fact that strikes me as crucial - Jay Leno agreed to leave and one consequence of that was handing over the reins to Conan O'Brien. That you would describe people's ire against Leno as 'hate' makes me wonder - doesn't it seem as if Leno is going back on the promise he made? I know, I know, NBC suits are desperate, gotta get those ratings back, etc., but shouldn't there still be some value in a man's word? Leno gave it; now he wants his old job back. That stinks.

For the record, you gotta give Conan credit on the statement - not only humble, but funny. We could do with some more of both on late night TV.

Posted by: tomd3 | January 12, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

that is the way it goes - he knows that and so does anyone else in the business.
he is a pretty good performer and will find something else with better ratings.

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | January 12, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

leno caused this whole thing. i wish he would just disappear. conan is classy and is funny. mostly though i feel for jimmy fallon. he's been overlooked but i think his show is great and i hope it doesn't get moved in all of this.

Posted by: pwcpat | January 12, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Dude, you are so right on with your statement. NBC doesn't know what the hell they're doing. The Tonight Show is an icon and a cash cow for NBC (like SNL). You are the truely appointed heir to that throne and have paid your dues. You're funny as hell and don't deserve to be treated this way. You've been loyal to the network for years and they do THIS! Time for a boycot of NBC. They were trying to do with Jay what they did with that pseudo news show (what's the name) that they showed in every time slot possible. Some original dramas would be good -- or great comedy to lead into the 11:00 news. You're right -- 12:05 is a death knell for the Tonight Show. Good luck!

Posted by: sassyter8426 | January 12, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

If they put Jay back on at 11:35, I'm either going back to Letterman or following Conan to another network. I was never a fan of Leno and was extremely happy when Conan took over.

NBC completely mucked this one up.

Conan, tell me where to go.

Posted by: Wolridges | January 12, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I have to give Conan credit for a well put and well written statement. NBC has been causing turmoil with these shows for many years. The upper management at NBC is possibly the worst in the nation. Just look how far the network has fallen. It would be nice to see Fox step up and grab Conan and possible Fallon and let them create the shows that the people have enjoyed for half a century. NBC is just an address and really means nothing. I also look forward to the law suites by sponsors, hosts and staff for contractual breech. Put NBC down like the rabid dog it is. In the famous words of Dan Akroid. "Sometimes you have tie the old companies to a tree and bash them with a stick" Tommy Boy. Isn’t this the same network/corp. that lost Sterns??? LOL

Posted by: askgees | January 12, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

You chuckle at Conan because he is weird and awkward. You laugh at Leno because he is genuinely funny. I'll never understand Conan's celebrity. He tries to hard to be an everyman, but ends up looking like the class nerd trying to get laid at a party where he wasn't invited.

Posted by: greg3 | January 12, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

It's time to send Jay Leno out to pasture.

Go Get 'em Conan!!

Posted by: vigor | January 12, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I watched Conan on the Tonight Show when he first started. It wasn't impressive. It seems clear to me that he's out of his element there. (That's not to say he's awful, but the audience for The Tonight Show is very different from the audience he had.) I suppose the network was gambling that people who watched the show would stay for Conan, or that Conan's viewers would all make the move to The Tonight Show. Neither seems to have happened, and that's regrettable.

Unfortunately, that's as sympathetic as I can bring myself to be towards Conan. I think his grandstanding with this statement is juvenile, at best. For those who don't know, here's how the world actually works: The network makes you an offer. Either take it, or don't take it. Whining about it isn't what adults do.

As much as I've liked Jimmy Fallon's work in the past, Conan's invocation of his name as one of the reasons he doesn't want to move rings hollow. I've watched it a few times, and as a monologue guy, Fallon just isn't that funny. It's just not where he excels. Some of the silences (where there should've been laughter) were just downright embarrassing to watch. Now, maybe that would be fixed over time, but time is one thing NBC doesn't have. Given the circumstances, it's understandable that they want to return things back (as closely as possible) to the way things were before.

If Conan decides to leave NBC, he'll be missed, but he would've been much better served saying something like Leno did (paraphrasing): "Fox is always nice this time of year."

Posted by: bhartman24 | January 12, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Let's be honest with ourselves, folks; in the end, it doesn't really matter. I am a lot more concerned about the welfare of our troops overseas than I am about these self-absorbed entertainers. What they do or don't do will NEVER make a difference in this world.

Posted by: bofo9090 | January 12, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Leno didn't cause this mess, NBC did by trying to have its cake and eat it too. They made Jay step down, didn't want to lose Jay, and didn't want to lose Conan, either. They wanted the ratings and the bucks that both brought in. So they tried to make everyone happy, and themselves richer, and the whole thing blew up in their face.

The Late Show was good when Conan was there, but no way could or should the idiots in charge at NBC have thought that the masturbating bear, flatulating wiener, nascar Jesus, or vomiting Kermit would play on The Tonight Show.

And 'In The Year 2000' should've been retired in 2001.

Posted by: onlytheshadowknows1 | January 12, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

He had me at "People of Earth"

Posted by: yampaco | January 12, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Jay Leno was doing well until he brought on BECK...

that is when the viewership dropped dramatically..

AND I was one of them..

Rarely watched Jay Leno after that.

The few times after the Beck disaster.
The show seemed to lose its pizazz.


Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | January 12, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Awww, I don't like to see Conan hurt! And I don't want to see him go. Conan is the king of late night!

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | January 12, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Conan is soooo silly - perhaps Fox will make an offer.
Give us Leno back at 11:30 for an HOUR! - WooHoo!

Posted by: angie12106 | January 12, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

brucesh1, spot on.

Everyone declaring their love or hate for either Conan or Jay...you know neither of them personally. What you see every night is their TV persona. They're not the first TV personalities to get screwed by a network and they won't be the last.

I do have to say that Jeff Zucker certainly made a big, fat mess of the situation. So what if Conan had bolted five years ago? Frankly, who cares about the show after Tonight? If it was so important then, why is it not so important now?

So the result is the same, only five years later. Conan bolts. Brilliant.

Reminds me of a certain owner of a professional football team....

Posted by: mdreader01 | January 12, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Wow - Conan just moved up several notches in my estimation of him. Gracious and humble. I wonder if Pres. Obama can invite Jay, Conan, and Jimmy to a beer summit and straighten out NBC's debacle.

Even so, I can't imagine how Conan dreams of beating Letterman unless he accepts a lead-in from Jay.

Posted by: eed017 | January 12, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

They should get rid of Andy and replace him with Jay...now THAT would be entertaining!

Posted by: buzzkill2 | January 12, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

SEC orders details of AIG bailout kept SECRET for 10 years!

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1116982020100111

What are they hiding?

Posted by: angie12106 | January 12, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Conan go for the big money.

Posted by: blakesouthwood | January 12, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I want Jay back! I miss him at 11:30 pm and want the previous format. Conan should go to another network and his fans will follow.

Regarding NBC, most things get screwed up at some point or another, that's life and not a single person makes all the right decisions, all the time. Nothing beats a failure, but a try!

Posted by: shejoy | January 12, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

This strikes me as an honest, classy statement from O'Brien.
It shows just how awfully Zucker managed this. He set up the situation, panicked when affiliates pressured him on early ratings and key - not only bushwhacked Leno and betrayed O'Brien's contract in an effort to deflect blame...but also managed to diss the well regarded Jimmy Fallon and HIS loyal, (and profitable) following.

Conan O'Brien - "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."

Indeed!

The situation is shaping up to be heaven-sent for both O'Brien and Fox Entertainment. O'Brien would get a top, inovative creative team and Fox has become the 4th Network without yet figuring out what to do with it's post 11:30PM wasteland of reruns. Cheap and profitable reruns, but not boosting Fox's overall viewership or attracting a younger late night demographic.

Cross your fingers, and here's wishing luck to Zucker in his new job as general manager of North Korean Television Broadcasting, after GE-NBC waits a decent interval then circ-files him.


Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 12, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Jay Leno is like a drunk party guest who doesn't know when to leave. He had his turn, he should have stepped aside and let Conan find his audience. By placing his poorly rated show at 10 pm, he not only hurt local affiliates but also the Tonight Show by ensuring low-rated lead-ins.

When the Leno prime time show was first announced, several comedians noted that Conan was getting scr@wed in the process. They were right. I'm glad that Conan has refused to remain on his back.

Posted by: kalixmd | January 12, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I submitted a comment about half an hour ago...it would have been nice if it was made clear that my (anyone's?) comment would not be posted without the extra sign-in stage.... What's that all about. Doesn't make me eager to submit future posts since mine didn't show up...

Posted by: Nancy26 | January 12, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

For those who are blaming Leno for this debacle, Leno did not voluntarily agree to step aside for Conan. I remember when Leno was negotiating his new five-year contract, NBC asked him to agree to leave at the end of that contract so that Conan would know he was getting the show in five years. NBC didn't want to lose Conan the way they lost Letterman.

Posted by: mafox1 | January 12, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Enough with all the compliments about how Conan's statement is so "classy," people. Not that it wasn't well-written. It wasn't so much classy as "smart." In pre-empting any move by Leno, Conan is drawing first blood. I love the not-so-subtle dig at Leno with his mention of lack of "ratings support." Conan's just looking out for number one, is all.

The fact is, Leno was a good fit for 60 minutes starting at 11:35, and Conan was a good fit for 60 minutes starting at 12:35. Neither has been particularly successful in his new role. Maybe that's all Leno's fault -- but I think the show was simply poorly conceived -- and NBC CLEARLY had a disaster on its hands with the affiliates.

Anyway, this is all about Conan trying to get NBC to keep him in the 11:35 slot. Again, I don't particularly blame him for trying, but I must say a public missive like this comes across as a little bit whiney. SURE, he hasn't been "given the time" like his predecessor. But neither has Leno.

Posted by: Jasper99 | January 12, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

The funny thing is that the affiliates were against the 10pm Jay Leno Show from the beginning--it murders their cash cow, which is the 11pm local news. NBC thought they could ram the Jay show down the affiliates' throat, and only now have discovered that affiliates would be perfectly happy to preempt Jay for outside programming.

That, folks, is a perfect example of business ineptitude. How did they not see this coming.

Posted by: acoberst1 | January 12, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Pookie:

The Leno-O'Brien-Fallon-NBC mess, explained:

http://wp.me/p1o3I-10F

Posted by: bs2004 | January 12, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

danders5000: What the @#*& are you talking about??! Not everything is about politics, dude. You need to step back and take a deep breath. Watch a popcorn flick. Read some Shakespeare or Stephen King. Go play mini-golf. Geez.

Posted by: tomguy1 | January 12, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

If NBC could get rid of Jay when he was number 1. Conan should have forseen how NBC might treat you if you are not number 1. The problem is NBC. Conan is good, run, run and start a new show somewhere.

Posted by: eusa | January 12, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Interesting... Conan showed, in his statement, why the split will occur. He has class, NBC alas, does not.

NBC has been in decline for some time. perhaps it's the "executives" that need to go. After all, you can't keep chasing away all your talent... then all you'll be left with is.... Executives.

Posted by: 4Jaxon | January 12, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse


I want Jay back! I miss him at 11:30 pm and want the previous format. Conan should go to another network and his fans will follow.
Regarding NBC, most things get screwed up at some point or another, that's life and not a single person makes all the right decisions, all the time. Nothing beats a failure, but a try!
Posted by: shejoy | January 12, 2010 5:10 PM |

Agreed & apparently your Mom screwed up with you! Yes - lets reward those that eff-up!! What a moron you are.

Posted by: Rocc00 | January 12, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if I'm right but I thought that Jay Leno made a big announcement a few years ago that he was retiring in 5 years. Leno should just retire already. If he can land a show somewhere else good for him otherwise, retire now.

Posted by: rj2008 | January 12, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else think this drama happening in 2010 at all resembles what happened when NBC originally announced the format change in December 2008?

Posted by: mikeobrien71 | January 12, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

"More people liked Jay Leno at 11.35 pm than like Conan O'Brien at 11.35."

No, NBC, without a craptastic Leno show at 10 pm was previously able to deliver a lot more viewers to their affiliates' 11 o'clock newscast, thus delivering a lot more viewers to the Tonight Show. The idiotic "Let's put Leno on every prime-time" decision is what's killing not only NBC but also their affiliates. They'd be better off going back to 5 nights of Dateline and To Catch a Predator, which is a sad statement about their current situation.

Posted by: Left_of_the_Pyle | January 12, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

You don't suppose this whole thing is a publicity stunt by NBC? Lettermen got great ratings by committing adultery. This may be NBC'S answer.

Posted by: sportsfan2 | January 12, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Leno appeals to an older crowd. If you are 40 years old or younger than you most likely think Conan is funnier. Those are the people who stay up to watch the tonight show so keep Conan.

However, this is all a mute point because the Daily show and Colbert Report are waaaay funnier, have more substance, and interview guests much better and they run from 11:00 - 12:00. Hey, maybe that's why they want Conan to start at 12:05 so they pick up the huge demographic of people that just finished watched Stewart and Colbert on comedy central.

Posted by: pharringt | January 12, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Boy, did NBC screw up big time.

Posted by: creatia52 | January 12, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Classy statement; wish Conan's show was as good.

I think older people (over 30) think he's hip and funny, but he's not up to Mr. Leno's offerings. Mr. Leno's prime time show however, was awful. Hope he returns to his old self at the later hour.

There should be a place for Conan for the 30 to 60 crowd somewhere.

Posted by: llrllr | January 12, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Here we go:
1. Conan to MSNBC at 11:30 for 1 hr. At 11 a new show with Dan Abrams doing interviews-political and otherwise-a Charlie Rose or Larry King type deal---it could work--he could be good at this.
2. Leno back to his old time slot---until he retires which will be a long time from now. He's got the ratings and will destroy anyone who gets in his way. Let him and Conan face off at the same hour, sort of "Standoff at the OK Corral".
3. Laurance Odonnel to do Rachel's show on Fridays and Mondays---he does a great job.
Rachel to replace David Greggory on Meet the Press. Sounds crazy--but she is very fair--smart as a Rhodes Scholar--and wants to do this for a long time--and has demonstrated she can get the guests---they trust her because she will not be trying to destroy them like Rush or Hannity. She does excellent research on the questions-(as observed by Al Gore) and they will feel the pressure from her that they once did from Tim--and the humor.
4. David Greggory who is trying to do a good job on "Meet the Press" (Tom Brokaw's pick from the 1950's) but he is just a reporter (and a bully) --and simply cannot be a Tim---he is way too CONFRONTATIONAL he cannot get away with what Tim did---no masses of people will come to his funeral, I assure you.
That is my $.02

Posted by: flatrailer | January 12, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

NBC deserves to be in last place. I hope Conan leaves them to drown, and moves to Fox to start over.

Posted by: john65001 | January 12, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I watched the promos for Jay's show when it aired in prime time. So I tuned in. I expected a new format, on-the-street interviews, not the bent page re-hashs. What we got was in its short run included repeat guests (Sykes & Cosby); a worn out hybrid car run and "earn your plugs" which just didn't play well. No wonder the "plug" got pulled. No fault of Conan's. Jay needs to regroup.

Posted by: janecolby | January 12, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse


Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien are both skilled performers appealing to different audiences. Each has his strengths and each has his weaknesses.

There is no need to attack one in order to support the other. However, Jay is in a better negotiating position that Conan. If Conan walks, NBC can move Jimmy Kimmel up an hour to take over the Tonight Show slot.

If Conan wants to go to another network, he would then have to run against Jay in a time slot where Jay drew a much larger audience than Conan has managed.

No matter what NBC decides, this shifting around can only help build the audience for Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.

Bob Kaufmann

Posted by: bobkaufmann | January 12, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Earth to Conan:

You are just not funny to a large segment of the viewing public. Yes, you have a niche following of people with a distinctive sense of humor, but that won't give your show the ratings you need to justify the first late night spot. Stop whining about the lack of "ratings support from the prime-time schedule," which is nothing more than an adolescent slap at Jay Leno, and take your talent somewhere it will be appreciated. We agree that Fox is a definite possibility. You should have no trouble booking Sarah Palin there and she will be almost as entertaining as the Masturbating Bear.

Now just go.

Posted by: hisroc | January 12, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

NBC yet another democratic run disaster.

GE. Owns NBC, NSBC, The Washington Post, New York Times and Newsweek.

GE is overseen by, slim ball Democrat contributor and Obama supporter Jeffery Immelt.

Remember the name (Immelt) when you see who and what company stands to gain the most from "The Tricky Kenyans" Cap & Trade bill.

Posted by: dashriprock | January 12, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I try not to watch anything that involves NBC (national barack channel). Everything NBC does is so biased, it's not worth watching. If keith oberman is doing the sports, I definately won't watch it. NBC is going down.

Posted by: twotimetuna | January 12, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Conan has won my respect. He understands the tradition of television. He understands what it means to HIS successor, Jimmy Fallon, and he gives a tip of the hat to his current competition, David Letterman. Classy. As Johnny Carson advised Dave, "If I were you, I'd walk." Go get 'em Conan!
NBC just doesn't get it. And never has since Carson left.

Posted by: gravesbrian19 | January 12, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

conan said, "People of Earth:"

wow. that was a pretty funny line from conan. no wonder he is a funny guy. with such original and creative lines like that, he definitely should be protecting his show.

wow. again.. that was funny. man. i don't think i've laughed so hard. i laughed for... wow, it must have been 8 months straight.

conan sure is funny. "People of Earth:"

wow. that is funny.

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | January 12, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

oh by the way... i'm not saying leno is funny. leno is a jackass. and i don't find jackasses funny.

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | January 12, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

NBC = Cluster Foxtrot

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 12, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

It's just as well. I don't think a half-hour time slot would have been large enough to hold Jay Leno's ego.

Posted by: ComfortablyDumb | January 12, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Conan can take himself and his ridiculously low ratings and juvenile comic (book) sensibilities to niche cable..........and don't let the exit door hit him on his orange (not red) pompadour on the way out! His lowbrow, immature "humor"--which isn't humorous--has disgraced the Tonight Show.

Hmmm....on second thought, rather than niche cable, maybe NBC can give you a Saturday morning kids show.

Posted by: BlanketyBlank | January 12, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Just like Leno needed time with the Tonight Show, and Conan did with his previous spot, Conan needs it now.

IMO, it was a mistake to take Leno from the Tonight Show to begin with, although I understand why NBC did it.

The simple fact is that the old formula worked. NBC, however, was in a quandary. Of course, they didn't want to lose Conan, and, just as understandably, he wanted to move on.

Solution: Try to move Conan back to his former slot. Pay him more. Promote him heavily. Give him specials, etc. He is, after all, brilliant.

Posted by: Farnaz1Mansouri1 | January 12, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Conan O'Brien is doing the right thing as a person. Yes, Leno is wrong to want to "have his cake .... ." However, I left the Tonight Show when Johnnie Carson did, and today I cannot imagine watching anything but The Daily Show and Colbert Report in the 11 PM time slot.

As for NBC, they continue to follow in their long standing tradition of making bad decisions with good shows. Remember, these are the same folks that canceled Star Trek, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and similar shows, only to spend decades trying to recreate them. They even continue to mess around with their only current major franchise: Law and Order, by switching the various versions' time slots and even channels (Criminal Intent ... NBC vs. USA).

Future MBAs will someday have to read a Harvard Business School case study based on NBC discussing how not to run a broadcast network.

Posted by: dannyw2 | January 12, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Conan is not funny, he should be replaced..NBC made a huge mistake signing him 6 years ago..

Posted by: hanimal03 | January 12, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Bye, bye Conan! Leno had a vastly better show. Oh sure, you appeal to the under 30 set, but you actively offend everyone else. Leno has a much broader audience appeal. Which all reflects the disastrous ratings NBC has received since you replaced him. We can only hope hat they bring back Leno.... and soon.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 12, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Why is NBC allowing this to happen in public? All of this should be going on behind closed doors.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | January 12, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Brett Favre retired as quarterback from the Green Bay Packers, and then tried to get the job back after it was given to Aaron Rodgers. Had the Green Bay organization accommodated Favre the way NBC is accommodating Leno, Rodgers would be playing for another team. This is no difference here. Conan is making a good decision in searching for another organization who will let him be the leader of his team.

Posted by: cardonap | January 12, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

I have found many people that just turn off Conan and do prefer Jay Leno. Carson was better than Leno and Leno is better than O'Brien. This is a sticky wicket.

Posted by: junglejamm | January 12, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I've always liked Conan. He's a true classy guy in a terrible situation. I love him for, in a very nice way, saying to NBC "F*@k YOU."
Conan will go to Fox and compete with Dave and Leno. And Leno will learn what it's like to be in 3rd place.

Posted by: jeffhert | January 12, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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