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Jay to Conan: I'll step aside so you can have The Tonight Show

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 18th 2010 10:03AM
OK, so he didn't say this today, he said it five years ago, when NBC announced that Conan O'Brien was going to take over The Tonight Show in the far off year of 2009. Here's video of Leno talking about the transition. I wonder if he remembers saying any of this stuff.

[via Gawker]

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williams

Come on, all you Idiots out there , don`t blame this mess on Jay Leno. Conan told NBC back in 2004, that he was taking offers from other networks unless he was guaranteed Jays show in 2009. At that time Conan was producing great ratings numbers on late night New York TV. NBC was doing badly overall even then, so they forced Jay out for Conan to take the tonight show .Jay did not want to retire then, nor now . So when 2009 comes around, as promised, NBC gives the show to RED, Jay said OK NBC let me out of my contract, and I will go to the competition. NBC said no, you are still valuable, so here is a 10:oclock show, NBC wanted their cake, and to eat it too. Jay told NBC a 10 pm show would not work, and he was right !!!! Put the BLAME where it properly belongs , NBC`s Idiot management !!!! Leave Jay alone, sure he may have some sharp elbows for business practices, but that is how business works. He did not ask for any of this, Conan forced it in 2004, by taking offers from other networks, or said he was going to. Conan is not funny, he is sophmoric, with Idiot sketches, and by the way who is his tailor, he looks like something they dragged out of a Value Village Store, what a horrible wardrobe !!!! Put the ENTIRE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS , RIGHT ON THE NBC EXECUTIVES !!!!!

January 20 2010 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevin

Leno is a pig, how would he have felt if 7 months after he took over the Tonight Show if Johnny Carson would have come back and said "hey I changed my mind and I want my show back", Leno's ratings were not as high as Johnny's when he first took over but NBC gave him years and years to build his following. I used to like Leno but I will NEVER watch him again.

January 20 2010 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

NBC's 10pm shows 'before' Leno's weren't all that great either most of the time, and for 15 of those 17 years, Leno did alright without a "great" lead-in show. So please put that lame excuse to rest.

January 18 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
azmrbiggles

To be fair to Conan, it is important to acknowledge that the reason Jay is coming back is two-fold;

1. Jay's 10 PM ratings weren't great, and local stations were complaining of loosing viewers because of them.
2. Conan's ratings weren't great.

These may not be related, but it seems to me if you want to put the blame on Conan for poorer ratings than Leno, you should give him programming that doesn't loose viewers as a lead-in.

January 18 2010 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

when Jay tok the 10 pm show and was asked why he did it, he said he works for NBC and he works when they schedule him. Pretty loyal. Conan has produced half the numabers that Jay had. Pretty simple business: Less numbers less advertisers, less profit. As for Conan boo-hooing his move across country. Name me any band who would not take the gig, even for the short term, a national TV gig. Even Chevy Chase's failed Fox show had a band. You get paid. You agree to be paid. You show up and work. When the job is done, you look for more work. Stop the whining. Anyone here woulda taken the money.

January 18 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jffm

//Uhh he doesn't have any children. Yes he may be taking care of other family members, but really the guy is rich as hell! He was earning $20 million a year.

Please, let's not talk about taking care of family. And Conan brought this up in his letter, that people shouldn't feel sympathy for him (Conan) because he is already a very privileged man, with or without the Tonight show.//

I'm not talking about having sympathy for anybody, they're *all* wealthy people. I know he doesn't have any kids, but as you point out, that's not the extent of "family". I'm talking about the fact that everybody, rich and poor, want to leave as much security behind for those close to them as possible. It's just part of human nature.

Leno is still more than able to continue working, he's being offered a boatload of money to do so, and there's no practical reason for him not to do that. Your's, mine or anybody else's value judgements about nebulous considerations about handing down legacies or things like that don't carry a lot of weight when it comes down to making what is in the end a career/business decision.

Heck, if in five or ten years Leno does retire, do you really believe Conan O'Brien wouldn't at least think about it if NBC came calling offering him $30 or 40 million dollars to step back into the Tonight Show? Sure he'd lock it down with a contract so tight it would squeak when you signed it, but these guy's didn't get where they are by being stupid. It's show *business* and money talks.

January 18 2010 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sofia

well, i do remember this, and i've been looking forward for conan to be on the tonight show for 5 years! somebody should show this to leno.

January 18 2010 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jffm

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. All the talk of "legacy" and so forth is fine, but at the end of the day this is commerce much more than it is art, if it's art at all.

Leno is being offered many millions of dollars to stay on. He's got a future, family and loved ones to take care of like anyone else. Is he really supposed to walk away from his bread and butter just to further Conan O'Brien's career? Especially knowing O'Brien is going to still come out of this collecting his millions no matter how things shake out? Let's face it, it's not like Leno is condemning him to a job handing out towels in a men's room for tips somewhere.

It's going to be very interesting to see where all this sound and fury and pledges of eternal hatred/loyalty leads to a year from now.

I'm guessing that by then Leno will have at least 90% of his previous Tonight Show audience back (There can't have been much of a crossover with Conan O'Brien's audience given how many of them seem to be say they "never" liked Leno anyway. ;)) and lead the ratings but with a much slimmer margin than before, Letterman will hold onto his second place position and Conan O'Brien, assuming he ends up on Fox, will be a very respectable third, occasionally nipping at Letterman's heels and showing up periodically in the second place spot.

January 18 2010 at 1:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jffm's comment
Borat

//He's got a future, family and loved ones to take care of like anyone else. //

Uhh he doesn't have any children. Yes he may be taking care of other family members, but really the guy is rich as hell! He was earning $20 million a year.

Please, let's not talk about taking care of family. And Conan brought this up in his letter, that people shouldn't feel sympathy for him (Conan) because he is already a very privileged man, with or without the Tonight show.

Leno could just retire and live in peace. Have a good legacy while he's gone. People would have remembered him as someone who did well on the Tonight Show. And are we forgetting the fact that Letterman beat him for 2 years? How about giving Conan some time (I agree though that his show was not that good - I stopped watching it regularly after a month or two myself).

Now his ballyhooed return is just going to be filled with the same obvious jokes, lame interviews and him making fun of stupid people. Can't wait!

January 18 2010 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.


I don't get the animosity towards Jay. He is a workaholic and everyone knows it. That's why the 10pm show. It obviously didn't work. Conan was funny on his late night show, but it didn't carry over to the Tonight Show. I tried watching him for weeks and off and on after that and it just wasn't that great. The ratings suffered and NBC made a business decision (a good one) to pull Conan off the air. Jay had great ratings and they want him back. Jay leapt at the chance to go back and I don't blame him. If Conan had been able to hold an audience, this never would have happened. Fallon absolutely sucks and he should be dropped too. Seven months is plenty of time to draw an audience and Conan couldn't do it. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing Jay come back. Just hope Conan finds a new home and goes back to what he did on his former late night show

Putting all the blame on Jay seems ridiculous. NBC is making the decisions and Conan just didn't hold up his end.

January 18 2010 at 12:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joyce N.'s comment
Jim

Jay has screwed people over since he HID IN A CLOSET at NBC and stole The Tonight Show from Letterman.

People are finally seeing his true colors.

NBC has four late-night hosts and not enough late night for all of them. Someone at the network needs to have the balls to tell one of them (Leno) to take a hike.

I hope the public turns against him and he flops at 11:30.

January 18 2010 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kat

Jay and Conan highligh photo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI8McR2oc3I

January 18 2010 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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