Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leno vs Conan Part 2

Well, Conan showed a huge pair of cojones by issuing this statement yesterday:

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.

So he took my advice and told NBC to shove it! Good for you Conan. I haven’t seen balls like this in television since Dave Chappelle walked away from his Comedy Central show. Look, you Leno-lovers can save all your “Leno is a nice guy” crap too. In my opinion, the ball is in his court. Conan manned up and now Leno needs to acquiesce here. He was the one who was supposed to retire. Leno is mucking up the cogs of late night!

The backlash will be huge. No one is going to watch Leno if they give The Tonight Show back to him. He can’t get away with playing innocent; he’s greedily had that slot for too long. Johnny Carson took lots of time off and let other people guest host for him. Many careers were started that way. I believe one of those was Jay Leno’s. Leno hosted every night for over sixteen years and never wanted to give anyone else a shot. Now he refuses to retire and is making everyone miserable. I still don’t understand why NBC is willing to burn all their bridges to accommodate Leno. I don’t know anyone who watched him at 11:35 let alone his sucky 10 pm show. In my house, if his show starts at 10 and no one turned the channel, we all scream and dive for the remote! Leno is not going to move NBC forward in the comedy realm.

Conan continues to put on a quality show through all of this upheaval. But don’t think for a minute that I haven’t noticed him sticking it to NBC. Ever since this whole thing started, Conan has gone back to putting his hips on a string. He used to do that every night on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Since he moved up to The Tonight Show, I’ve noticed it was by request only. I always figured that NBC told him he had to be classier at 11:35. It sure doesn’t look like he cares about any of that now. If you’re going, you’re going out on your own road.

NBC also needs to take into account that now Conan is hot! I don’t just mean hot topic, I mean sexy hot! When Conan fell during a Tonight Show taping and had a concussion, I certainly didn’t expect to see him hosting the very next night. But there he was, on the stage, cracking jokes. I thought, “Wow, this guy is tough.’ Suddenly, Conan was just a little bit hotter to me. Now this? A man who stands up for his beliefs and principals, no matter what the consequences? That’s smokin’ hot! NBC would be wise to hold on to him, but hey Conan, I’ll follow you anywhere!

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