Okay, this whole Conan O'Brien/Jay Leno situation just got really interesting. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about... well, just Google it, there have been countless articles written about it since Friday.)
In short? Leno agreed to retire in 2004, and NBC offered Conan "The Tonight Show" in five years' time (he took over in June). But somewhere along the line, Leno "changed his mind" about retiring, and NBC gave him a 10PM show to keep him from moving to a rival network. His 10PM show bombed hard, and now NBC's looking to put him back at 11:30, which will push Conan back half an hour and make him Leno's second fiddle all over again - after they spent 5+ years grooming him as Leno's replacement. He's understandably pissed.
Well, Conan just released a statement:
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.
Adding more frustration to the whole debacle is that Leno has been making cracks the past few episodes on his current show about being "canceled" in 2009, in an attempt to look like the victim in all this. This is completely dishonest on his part, as he willingly went along with NBC's plans in 2004.
I'm a huge fan of Conan O'Brien. Hell, he's something of a personal hero of mine. I developed a huge appreciation for television comedy watching his work as a "Simpsons" writer, followed him closely for years on his brilliant "Late Night", and I've been really enjoying him on his so-far short run on "Tonight". I sincerely hope that NBC realizes the error of their ways and keeps Conan right where he is. But either way, Conan just showed he's got more class and integrity in one red hair than Leno has in his entire body.
EDIT: in the short time since his statement, the Web has exploded in support of Conan. Here's hoping NBC is listening.