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Conan says no to 12:05 Tonight Show - BREAKING

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 12th 2010 3:35PM
Tonight ShowWell, it's official: Conan O'Brien has said no to NBC. He doesn't want to do a 12:05 Tonight Show. (Full statement by Conan after the jump).

You can tell that the statement was well-thought out and carefully worded. But you also get the sense that Conan isn't happy at all with what has happened. He grew up watching Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and you can tell that he wanted it not just for the money, but for the tradition, the history, and especially the time slot. He doesn't think that a 12:05 Tonight Show will even really be a Tonight Show. He even uses the word "destruction" when talking about what NBC is doing to their late night lineup and The Tonight Show.

He doesn't have another offer, but it looks like he's gone if they can't come to some agreement. Then the last year will be like Bobby Ewing in the shower. It never happened, and Jay will be back at 11:35.

(Update: NBC told the bevy of reporters in Pasadena that tonight, Conan will host a new episode of The Tonight Show. So for those of you who were rooting for The Tonight Show with Andy Richter, you'll have to keep waiting.)

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.

Yours,

Conan

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39 Comments

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kat

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI8McR2oc3I jay and conan are the exclusive of the week!

January 18 2010 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rodney

Now why don't you delete this comment and the reply to it so that people don't go looking for RT's original comment.

January 13 2010 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
H

His appearance on tonight's show was priceless. I loved all the references he made, from the mysteriously unplugged microphone on his desk to Howie Mandel's Deal or No Deal-like game on his future options. He even told Tom Brokaw (sp) not to say "NBC" so often! The guests played into it well, especially the brave Zachary Levi for saying what he did despite Chuck's home on NBC.

Did anyone catch the SNL commercial after Levi's appearance? Even they're playing into the scandal; it's great.

January 13 2010 at 2:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beth

Thank you Conan! Well said and I hope you get millions for this mess and are able to get money for your crew too. Sadly, I don't think you'll keep the Tonight show. But it hasn't been the Tonight show since Carson left anyway.

Leno and the NBC executives are the ones who destroyed NBC prime time and late night. Conan never had a chance at the Tonight Show after Leno wormed his way into destroying NBC's prime time lineup, their affiliate news and the Tonight Show's ratings. Leno wanted to retire (was NOT forced out) and changed his mind so everyone should change everything to accommodate him. He thinks of no one but himself. He pushed Johnny Carson out. He pushed his supposed "friend" Letterman under the bus by stealing the Tonight show from him. And now he wants to push the Tonight show into tomorrow and crush Conan, Jimmy Fallon and Daly. Who does he think he is?

While Conan couldn't obtain the ratings they were looking for (partly because Leno was his lead-in every single night and stole a lot of guests) he did move the average age down 10 years. If he had been given a chance he would have done fine. It took Leno 3 years and a Hugh Grant mistake to get any ratings. Frankly, I hoped Leno would fail in prime time but never thought he would be rewarded for that failure with his 11:35 time slot back. That is just ridiculous! I swear chimps drinking beer could run that network better than those executives.

January 12 2010 at 11:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian

Hahaha -- again, as usual Carson Daly isn't even mentioned. Conan says he feel bad bumping Jimmy Fallon back...but what about Carson? He'd be bumped completely off the schedule! But he doesn't matter apparently. And no, I'm not some Carson lover...it's just a funny observation that no one cares about him.

January 12 2010 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Saturdays used to be a ratings powerhouse of a night... Some of the most memorable and famous tv shows of all time were broadcast then. Now, however, Saturday is a tv wasteland.

Why wasn't the obvious solution to move Leno to 10pm Saturday? A once a week talk show, like Graham Norton or others in Britain, might have actually attracted some positive attention and been forced to be different than Leno's Tonight Show. He could've slotted A list guests each week, start to finish.

Seems to me, that was the solution that would've ruffled the fewest feathers.

January 12 2010 at 8:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F

Conan is refusing to screw over Jimmy Fallon, but Jay seems to so far not mind doing it to Conan. Leno passed the torch to Conan on air and has to stand by that. Leno took a risk with a 10pm show but couldn't expect that if it failed that he can just go back to 11:35 and make Conan move. Conan packed up his family and entire crew and moved out from NY for NBC and is not being rewarded for it. Jay needs to step aside.

A Jay Leno Tonight Show may not be the same as it was after this. America may have just realized Jay Leno is that funny after all and may not stand by him in the ratings after this. I don't see how Jay can come out looking good and feel comfortable doing the Tonight Show after this. Now Jay's going to have two late night hosts to feud with.

January 12 2010 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3factfader

...and now for the opposing view...and its not because I have a horse in this race(I watch neither), facts are facts and Conan has lost about 50% of the viewers...meanwhile fallon has lost about 25% of the viewers Conan had at 12.30am

January 12 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to 3factfader's comment
Nevets

The only reason conan's ratings have taken a dive is because everyone is running from NBC at 10. And then they don't return for the local news and by that time you are going to continue watching whatever is on. It's all Leno's fault.

January 12 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
divineparasite

When Letterman left Leno, the press could say nothing about Letterman except how he was trailing Leno. Yet he didn't care. Letterman got something much more vaulable then The Tonight Show, he got his time slot and his creative freedom. CBS has been behind him ever since. There something more valuable to him then being the number one late night show on television. Now Conan is left to fight and good for him in doing so. NBC is more concerned with making Leno happy then supporting Conan and saying 'that whatever we decide to do with Leno we don't want that to conflict with you" It shows just how much NBC cares more about ratings more then the talent they have if they think they can just say well Conan isn't working out, lets just put him on a little later and hope nobody notices."

January 12 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Guess Who

"People of Earth" - the greeting alone was funnier than anything Leno has said in the past five years.

The letter was brilliant - and I wish Conan the best, Leno has had his day in the sun and should bow out gracefully.

On another note - call the networks and let them know if you hate bugs, text above bugs, snipes and lower thirds that have intruded on every show now.

January 12 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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