Conan O’Brien says he won’t do ‘The Tonight Show’ at 12:05
Conan O’Brien responds to NBC’s kerfuffle in a classy, stand-up way that stops short of actually quitting, but keeps NBC execs in the hot seat over their go-’round decisions about their late-night lineup.
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.
For the record, I’m firmly on Team Conan here, and not just because of my love of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Generally I’m not a big fan of Leno’s humor, but even more than that I think it’s tough to try to split the baby without a back-up plan for programming at 10 p.m. My colleague Matthew Greenberg makes some excellent points on where NBC went wrong.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to feel too sorry for Conan, who’s arguably got the best job in the world and more money than most of us could imagine, and whose statement makes a point of saying hey, don’t dry for me, Argentina. But while NBC figures out what to do, just watching the squirming show is proving plenty interesting. Stay tuned.