It’s time to put your boxing gloves on because Cone Bone aka Conan O’Brien is not laying down for NBC, Jay Leno, or anybody else. “The Tonight Show” host recently sent in a letter to the New York Times giving an ultimatum to the peacock network. After the February 12th cancellation of “The Jay Leno Show,” NBC is toying with the idea of pushing it back to the 11:35 time slot for a half an hour program. This would make it a lead in to a 12:05 Conan, which the red haired host isn’t happy about. If the network continues on this path, O’Brien has given them notice that he will walk. How did it get to this point?
In Conan’s letter he gave the scoop on what went down with him and NBC years before he took “The Tonight Show” stage. He was told 6 years ago that he would take over the program in June of 2009 once Leno’s reign ended. He along with a lot of his crew uprooted their families and left their homes on the East Coast to start anew in LA, but it was to no avail. NBC was apparently unable to make a clean break from Leno, so they decided to give him a regurgitated version of “The Tonight Show,” and scrapped their long running primetime lineup to do it.
Back in 2008 NBC boasted about how cost effective Leno’s new show would be for the network by getting rid of their scripted shows. An article in The LATimes discussed the major risks, and called the O’Brien-Leno debacle early on knowing it would cause problems down the line.
A major impetus behind the Leno deal was the desire not to lose the host to a competitor next year, when “The Tonight Show” is taken over by Conan O’Brien. But the latest shift has now put O’Brien in an awkward position. Not long after O’Brien takes over the “Tonight” franchise, his predecessor will in effect be promoted to prime time, doing essentially the same show he’s doing now. That will put even more pressure on O’Brien to put his own stamp on “Tonight.” And if O’Brien’s ratings sink below what Leno was doing behind the late-night desk? NBC just handed him one heck of an excuse.
NBC is so afraid that Leno will leave and go to a competitor, that they’ve allowed him to stay on like a cancer hindering their entire roster. ABC has stated that they’re very happy with their current lineup with Jimmy Kimmel, and according to the NY Daily News, ABC honcho Steve McPherson said, “We don’t have any plans to change our late-night right now. I love Kimmel.” Fox on the other hand said they were interested in talking to Leno when he was legally able to do so. As for the eye network, CBS has no intention of engaging this late night fiasco. They’re extending the contracts of both David Letterman and Craig Ferguson into 2012 according to CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler.
In the long run it sounds like Leno’s only options would be Fox, cable television, or here’s an idea RETIREMENT! No official statement has been released from Leno or NBC regarding O’Brien’s letter, but we’re sure one will come up sooner than later, so until then Conan 1, NBC 0, Jay 0.
Who do you think has the upper hand in the NBC late night battle? Are you for Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno?