Conan O’Brien released a statement Tuesday saying that he no longer wanted to be the host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC if it appeared at 12:05 a.m.
Mr. O’Brien’s brief run as host at 11:35 p.m. is to be cut short next month, as NBC decided to restore his predecessor, Jay Leno, to that time period. Mr. O’Brien has been growing increasingly upset in recent days about how he believes he was treated by NBC’s management.
A representative for Mr. O’Brien said Tuesday that the issue came to a head for the host on Monday and that he had “sat up all night drafting the statement.” NBC, whose “Tonight Show” has been broadcast at 11:35 p.m. for decades, declined to comment. Mr. O’Brien was scheduled to do “The Tonight Show” on Tuesday night.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Mr. O’Brien said, “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.’”
Mr. O’Brien’s comments came two days after NBC formally outlined a plan to move “The Jay Leno Show” to 11:35 p.m. in March, elbowing Mr. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” back half an hour. Mr. Leno seems supportive of the plan. In his statement, Mr. O’Brien rejects it outright.
After 16 years of making a name with his distinctive brand of intellectually silly comedy on the “Late Night” show on NBC, Mr. O’Brien replaced Mr. Leno as the host of “The Tonight Show” a mere seven months ago. He is just the fifth man to lead “Tonight,” after Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Mr. Leno.
Mr. Leno, meanwhile, moved to prime time in September as the host of “The Jay Leno Show.” But the 10 p.m. experiment was a bust for many NBC affiliates, which have seen the ratings for their late local newscasts plummet.
Amid mounting pressure to scrap the talk show, NBC announced on Sunday that Mr. Leno’s last show at 10 p.m. would be Feb. 11, and indicated that “The Jay Leno Show” would be shown at 11:35 p.m. instead. NBC will begin showing the Winter Olympics the next day, setting the stage for a new schedule on March 1. But the network acknowledged that day that Mr. O’Brien was not yet on board with the move.
Ever since the Leno-to-11:35 move was described in the news media last Thursday, people close to Mr. O’Brien have said privately that he is upset with the plan.
So Leno fails, and they want to change the time slot to accommodate him? Not that I really watch either show, but it just seems like a d-bag move to me. Not only are they screwing over Conan, but they want to change a time slot that has been as such for so long?
– Dave out