Conan O’Brien Says Thanks, But No Thanks to NBC
January 13, 2010
(ChattahBox)— Well, it’s final, NBC has made a colossal mess of its late-night lineup that in the end will chase away viewers, as well as advertisers. In the wake of Sunday’s announcement that the network was canceling Jay Leno’s failed prime time experiment in February, and planned to award Leno with a thirty-minute slot at 11:35 p.m., a stunned Conan O’Brien spent a couple of days mulling over his options. NBC had offered him “The Tonight show” title, but at a later 12:05 start. On Tuesday, O’Brien made his decision not to accept NBC’s offer in a lengthy statement addressed to fellow earthlings. The pompadoured comedian said that he would not contribute towards the “destruction” of a beloved late-night franchise.
According to the New York Times, O’Brien made his decision on Monday not to remain as host of “The Tonight Show” in a later time slot, staying up half the night drafting his statement.
In his lengthy statement, O’Brien expresses his respect for the enduring and historic legacy of “The Tonight Show.” The red-haired comic noted that he moved his family and entire staff to LA to take over the revered late-night franchise, only to be bumped from the show’s historic time slot just seven-months later. He also said that he has no current offers with Fox or any other network and has no immediate plans.
Below is O’Brien’s entire 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.
What happens next is any one’s guess, but it looks like Jay Leno will now return as host of “The Tonight Show” at its regular time, with Jimmy Fallon’s “Late Night” show remaining as is.
Gavin Polone, O’Brien’s manager denied that Conan’s statement was a negotiating ploy. “This came from the heart.” “It’s him expressing his feelings; there is nothing else behind it,” he said. “It’s not about strategy and contracts,” added Polone.
Where that leaves Conan O’Brien at this point is unknown. Once lawyers on both sides of the table resolve the contractual dispute and pay O’Brien monetary compensation, he may very well end up at Fox.