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Would Conan be interested in a move to Fox?

by Allison Waldman, posted Jan 8th 2010 8:33PM
conan_obrien_nbcWhat should Conan do? That is the question. While NBC hems and haws and makes themselves the laughing stock of the television business with this Jay Leno cha-cha-cha, the host of The Tonight Show has been treated like a second class citizen. Oh yeah, NBC has said they're sticking with Conan, but on their terms. The last iteration we heard about that was the idea of slotting Leno at 11:35, then Conan at 12:05, then Jimmy Fallon at 1:05. (Cha-cha-cha)

Well, now Conan O'Brien has reportedly been given an option to jump to Fox. If you believe TMZ.com, NBC has told Conan he has the option of leaving and joining another network. The Peacock, if you believe it, has dropped the contractual ties that would restrict O'Brien from going to the competition. Hmm... why would they do that unless they don't like what Conan's done with The Tonight Show and want to expedite his exit?

This isn't the first time Fox has expressed an interest in Conan. They approached him six years ago. Conan, who like David Letterman before him, desperately wanted Tonight, agreed to stay with NBC and wait for Leno's term to end. What kind of thanks does he get for being a good soldier and remaining loyal to NBC? A swift kick in the butt.

This desperate act to keep Leno in some way, shape or form, is foolhardy. Instead of helping late night, a 30-minute Leno before The Tonight Show would just cut in to Conan's audience. Why should Conan have to pay for NBC's mistakes with Leno?

What NBC should have done a year ago was let Leno walk. Jay walk. Goodbye. But they were concerned that Jay would go to Fox or ABC, so they came up with this Jay Leno experiment in primetime. Now that it's blowing up in their faces, NBC is scrambling to fix the situation and it's no easy fix. Too much money owed to too many men and too many affiliates and sponsors pissed off.

If I were Conan, I'd take the call from Fox. Kevin Reilly used to run NBC; I'm certain he would love to stick it to Jeff Zucker and company by wrangling Conan over to Fox. At the very least, O'Brien should make his NBC bosses sweat.

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Conan is my favorite night time host...very original and humble...I wish him the best..Go Conan...

January 24 2010 at 12:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, but the cost of buying out Conan's (or Leno's) contract can just be figured into the terms of the sale of NBC-Universal to Comcast.

The idea of starting Conan at 11 p.m. on Fox brings to mind an earlier Fox attempt to compete at 11: The Chevy Chase Show (six weeks in fall 1993, if I recall correctly). Chase was unfunny, of course, but perhaps the show's quick demise may also have owed something to Fox's (mis)management...

January 09 2010 at 3:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gottacook's comment

The way I hear it, Chevy Chase's demise was caused by STAGE FRIGHT. He was fine doing a fake newscast or sketches, but the producers had to regularly stop tape because he was horribly bad behind the desk talking to guests.

As for Conan's ratings...anyone wonder if Leno's presence earlier in the night might be damaging Conan? Why sit through another round of monologue/sketch/celebrity chat if you've already been through it?

Have Conan's numbers dropped since the launch of Leno?

January 09 2010 at 9:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

According to the early 20-somethings and teens in my family Fallon gets their cultural references better than the other late night hosts including the now middle-aged O'Brien. And they have no idea and don't care who did what first. (I watched Fallon a couple of times and cringed at how unfunny he was and my nieces and nephews were trying to explain to me over Christmas why he was still on and why they watched him.) As for Conan, or maybe even Leno, going to Fox, no doubt NBC would owe either one eight figures for breaching their contracts in a shakeup. Leno would be delighted to move back to 11:30 but Conan probably has 11:30 in his contract and would get tens of millions for not having that slot. (It was undoubtedly part of the deal when he was signed for that time way back when.) Probably if he goes to another network NBC is off the hook or owes far less. Heck, they are probably begging Fox to offer one of them a late night talk show. The competition would probably be cheaper than the money they have to pay out to get out of this mess if they have to pay one of them off. Especially now that they are negotiating to sell the network.

January 09 2010 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rebecca's comment
Marcus Gorman

If either one of them leaves, NBC without question will owe them a whole heap of money.

For Conan, that figure is reportedly $50 million.

January 09 2010 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've always been a die-hard Conan fan and catch him whenever I can. If things sound like this from outside NBC, then I'm sure it's much worse behind the scenes and he's getting treated like a red-headed stepchild. I hope he leaves and moves to Fox. I'd watch him over Leno and Letterman any day of the week.

January 09 2010 at 9:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have no problem with people who like Leno -- even if I greatly disagree with that sentiment.

However, I can't fathom how you can like Fallon but not like Conan. Both shows have a very similar set of writers, and produce similar off-the-wall skits. In fact, this first year of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" has reminded me a lot of years 3-7 or so of Conan's "Late Night". They've done a lot of weird, crazy sketches and had on a lot of great about-to-break-out comedians and young, "hip" musical acts. So it just seems weird to me that someone could so dislike one and like the other.

January 09 2010 at 6:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Paul's comment

This message was meant as a reply to Greg. Whoops!

January 09 2010 at 6:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On one hand, NBC deserves to lose Conan O'Brien.

But on the other hand....FOX? FOX is trash, they may get higher ratings than NBC because of American Idol and House, but is it time to truly consider them to be among the big 3 networks?

NBC is actually banking on the fact that Conan will feel personally embarrassed of his Tonight Show legacy, something he'd been waiting for over half of his life, only lasting about 8 months on the air. They think that Conan will have to endure this embarassment of pushing his show back a half hour for Leno, because walking away from the Tonight Show would be FAR more embarrassing for him.

The reward for Conan retaining his dignity is having to watch Jay Leno have a comeback party to the Tonight Show. That's just not fair.

Conan did things the RIGHT way, he didn't steal the job under anybody's nose and he actually put his time in on his OWN show and generated his own audience rather than pander to pathetic middle American people who are over 40 and probably give him huge ratings because they've fallen asleep and left the tv on NBC.

The idea of Conan working under Rupert Murdoch....ugggh.

If FOX makes big strides to become a legitimate network with great shows and events, then maybe I could see Conan try to start another chapter in the history of late night television.

That's the way it always seems to be with Conan: He has to do it alone, all over again.

January 09 2010 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jay's comment

FOX airs 4 shows that I watch regularly, 2 of which are in my personal Top 5 ("House" and "Bones"). So I personally think they do produce some quality shows. This, and the fact that they have ended the last few seasons as the #1 network on TV (yes, mostly thanks to "American Idol"). But they're certainly more legitimate than NBC these days.

If Conan DID move to FOX, he'd be able to start at 11pm, 35 minutes before Letterman and Leno. Why not try that out? He'd certainly have more freedom and less pressure on FOX, and would have a head start every night for anyone who doesn't need to watch the news at 11.

Compared to being stuck behind Leno -- STILL -- it's not that bad a thought. Even if it does mean he becomes a "Tonight Show" trivia answer. And who knows, much like Dave did 17 years ago, maybe he could make a name for himself and his new show over time on a brand new network.

January 09 2010 at 6:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marcus Gorman

Attention all: Conan is actually beating Letterman in the 18-49 demo. For nearly the entire fall. This is the demo where the money and the future of network television lies.

NBC, your recent decisions are looking dumber by the minute. Congratulations.

January 09 2010 at 2:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Conan absolutely does not deserve this much bullshit from NBC brass. They treat him worse than Carson Daly (what with giving him the Tonight Show and just putting Jay on earlier, which screwed Conan massively, ultimately ceding the #1 spot to CBS--all they did to Carson Daly is put him on very late and not care).

The Tonight Show has been at 11:30 since 1967; a 12:05 show appears to me as a bastardized version of the legendary late-night program. The legacy of the show manifests from the fact that it's been on at (essentially) the same time for decades, generations. People understand the sentiment that "people have really made it in their career when they make it to the Tonight show." It's an American institution, just like football, nachos, and videos of nut shots. To see it treated like this, moved around so Jay Leno can keep telling middle-of-the-road jokes with (usually) no zing or edge at all, offends me as a loyal NBC late night viewer. Conan, go to FOX. Kevin Reilly will treat you like you deserve to be treated: as the man who earned the Tonight Show.

January 09 2010 at 1:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any discussion of Conan's ratings has to include online viewing. The main reason I don't watch Conan is because only the skits are worth watching, and people who watch Conan are probably the most media-savvy of all talk-show viewers. Why would they sit through a Spencer and Heidi segment when they could just look at the clips online?

January 09 2010 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jax Maxton

For some reason, Conan on Fox feels like a good fit to me. He could quickly and easily become the "face" of the Fox network, and, probably due to his association with the Simpsons, feels like a comedy fit. Let him produce a couple pilots, maybe even a cartoon pilot, with him as a late night host, and I think you might have a beautiful friendship.

January 08 2010 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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