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Jan-12-2010 14:52printcomments

Conan O'Brien Says NO WAY to NBC

"The Tonight Show" at 12:05 simply isn't "The Tonight Show."

Conan O'Brien
Conan O'Brien

(SALEM, Ore.) - Jay Leno may be getting his entire show back, but he should have remembered the old cliche, be careful what you ask for.

Since Jay Leno retired about six months ago, the odds have been against his replacement. With Leno taking a slender amount of viewers with him to the ten o'clock show, and then Letterman hitting rating records with his affair/blackmail scandal, Conan O'Brien has had an uphill climb where it should have been a cake walk.

Seventeen years was good enough for Johnny Carson, but it's just not enough face time for Jay Leno. And, now that Leno's late fringe talk show has taken a dive, he and NBC decided that he should resume his lofty position following the late night news, regardless of what that meant to the present show- or host.

The grand idea of moving the Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. has resulted in exactly what most expected.

Conan O'Brien said "No."

Jay Leno ends up looking like a bully, and a selfish one at that. NBC, sadly, did not show its best colors either, and today they both appear to have egg on their face.

Conan O'Brien will go on to great success, while others will be left to debate who was most at fault in the collaborative mistake.

O'Brien released the statement below on Tuesday afternoon:

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 DVR's 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.



Bonnie King has been with since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers.

View articles written by Bonnie King

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Jeff Kaye~ January 13, 2010 8:07 am (Pacific time)

Kudos to Conan for doing the right thing; standing up to the bullying tactics of Leno's last gasp effort to maintain some relevance in the entertainment industry. Speaking for myself, I never found Leno to be very entertaining - his sarcastic, mean-spirited humor just doesn't appeal to me. Conan, on the other hand, I've always found amusing, and seldom (if ever) demeaning toward others not as fortunate as himself. My guess is, Leno will flop and NBC will realize their error and beg Conan to resume hosting The Tonight Show in his regular time slot in its time-honored tradition following the late news. His parting commentary shows his good natured self-deprecating sense of humor will pull him through any hardship this may involve. He will be missed. Were Leno to leave, again speaking for myself, I could not say the same.

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