Last week, we reported that NBC was considering royally screwing up changing their late night programming schedule by returning Jay Leno to his old spot at 11:35pm and moving Conan O’Brien to midnight. In his coverage of the story, Screen Rant writer Anthony Ocasio mused that if he were Conan, he’d be pretty upset (a sentiment echoed by the majority of our readers as well).
Still, we hadn’t heard any official statement from Conan regarding the rumors, other than a pretty hilarious bit during his opening monologue on last night’s show. That all changed today, when Conan released a long and thoughtful statement that addresses the issue head on.
In the statement, which is humorously addressed to the “People of Earth,” Conan says that he “cannot participate in what I honestly believe is [The Tonight Show’s] destruction” and that he will not remain with NBC if they decide to push the show back to the 12:05am time slot. Check below to read the statement in its entirety.
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.
Given how badly NBC is treating him, I’m impressed at how classy this letter is. Then again, Conan has always been a classy guy (not to mention funny as hell). That’s why I have officially joined the ‘Conan Should Leave NBC’ bandwagon.Flip to the next page to learn more about the groundswell of fan support for Conan along with some of his possible alternatives.
I can’t understand NBC’s continued fetish over Jay Leno. I’ll admit, he’s funny, but his time is over – plus, he stepped down, he wasn’t forced off the stage. When NBC was planning the The Jay Leno Show, everybody said it would be a failure, but did the network listen? No. Sure, it was an interesting experiment in cost-saving, but the show never found an audience. Now they think that they can just slip Jay back into late night with no questions asked. In my opinion, that’s an insult to Conan and his millions of fans.
Conan has an incredible and enthusiastic fan base under the age of 40. Assuming that he doesn’t stop being funny, which is about as unlikely as him staying with NBC at this point, he could successfully host the show for the next 20 years. The fact that NBC didn’t even give Conan the courtesy of running his show for a full year proves just how deluded the fourth-place network is and it’s a big reason why Conan’s fans are pushing him to ditch the peacock and set up shop somewhere else.
As detailed in the Media Decoder blog at the New York Times, Conan fans on Twitter have shown their support for the red-headed comedian by using the hashtag #teamconan, again proving that Conan is the right host for a younger generation. As of this posting, Team Conan is still a trending topic on Twitter, while mentions of Jay Leno and NBC are either non-existent or decidedly negative.
Unfortunately, it may be harder for Conan to switch networks than we would like. According to another article by Bill Carter in the New York Times, the president of Fox Entertainment, Kevin Reilly, has expressed an interest in bringing Conan to Fox, saying, “He would be a very compatible fit for our brand,” and that, “He is one of the few guys on the planet that has demonstrated he can do one of these shows every night.” However, there may be some snags regarding the actual language of Conan’s deal with NBC.
Quoting from the article:
Despite the fact that Mr. O’Brien is being ejected from the 11:35 p.m. time period he was given in June and pushed to after midnight to make room for Jay Leno, NBC executives are expressing confidence that the network has not breached Mr. O’Brien’s contract.
The reason? The contract, NBC is arguing, guaranteed Mr. O’Brien would be installed as host of “The Tonight Show” — and unlike many other deals for late-night stars, Mr. O’Brien’s contract contains no specific language about the time period the show would occupy, NBC executives said. NBC has said Mr. O’Brien’s relocated show would be called “The Tonight Show.”
The contractual terms could affect Fox’s pursuit of Mr. O’Brien in several ways. Mr. Reilly acknowledged that even if Mr. O’Brien found a home at Fox, NBC could insist that it had the right to keep Mr. O’Brien from starting a show for an extended period of time — as long as a year or more.
Of course, given the negative publicity surrounding NBC’s decision to switch the schedule around, it’s unlikely that the network would want to take the contract dispute to court. What is more likely, assuming Conan did start a show on a new network, is that NBC would buy out his contract and he would be forced to forfeit a percentage of his earnings. Ultimately, I hope that that’s what happens so that Conan can wind up somewhere his unique sense of humor is appreciated.
What do you think of Conan’s polite ultimatum to NBC? Are you on Team Conan or Team Jay? If the contract details were worked out, would you watch Conan on a different network?