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Conan O'Brien says he won't participate in the 'destruction' of 'The Tonight Show'

Conan "The Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien just released a statement regarding his pending status at NBC. 

In the lengthy letter addressed to "People of Earth" -- full text follows -- O'Brien says he has not received any offers from competing networks but also says he will not continue with "The Tonight Show" should it move to 12:05 p.m., as NBC said on Sunday it would.

Specifically, O'Brien said he would not participate in what he termed "the destruction" of "The Tonight Show."

"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."

The statement in its entirety:

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.

Yours,

Conan

More details to come over at the Company Town blog.

-- Denise Martin

Photo credit: AP

 

 
Comments () | Archives (29)

Surely, NBC must be terrified of all the free publicity they're getting out of this...it could actually bring in tens and twenties of viewers.

Conan said it all.... I especially liked that part about not doing something unfair to Jimmy Falon, which is exactly what Leno is doing to O'Brien. Leno should realize his show isn't working out and graciously step down, not bully his way into the 11:30 slot....

Way to go Conaan. Your a classy guy. No matter where you go I will be tuneing in

I admire this decision of Conan's. Remember, that Jay Leno was the one who got forced out of the Tonight Show, even though he'd been #1 in the ratings for 17 years. That was a stupid decision on the part of NBC, and they are paying for it now. It doesn't surprise me that Conan isn't doing well in the ratings. His brand of "humor" is too mean for me and for many others who enjoy comedy but not meanness. I saw just one segment of Conan's Tonight that I found offensive, because he insulted about 8 celebrities in 15 minutes or less. Jay's humor, like Johnny's before him, is more subtle and not so barbed. Jay Leno absolutely should be returned to the Tonight Show in its one-hour presentation. Not just for Leno's sake, but for all of us viewers who turned to Letterman in recent months. Conan will be fine and will be offered a suitable venue.

Holy COW. Conan is officially my hero. I know some people are going to call him a crybaby, but I see it as something else entirely: standing up for your principles in Hollywood. How rare is that?

I'm too young to know Johnny Carson as the host of the Tonight Show, but I'm not too young to know that Conan is an amazing host and a hilarious comedian. What NBC is doing to make room for The Chin, is ridiculous, and I couldn't disagree with it more. People should protest against that hack of a "comic" - Jay Leno, and NBC for letting this happen. Weak sauce NBC, very weak sauce.

P.S. Coco, nice hair.

nbc don't screw this up; we love conan and nighttimes are not the same without him. i'd choose conan over leno any day.

Connan is a winner. NBC management is a loser.

Connan is a winner. NBC is aloser on this one.

Nobody talks about what Conan did to Jay 5 years ago. !!!!!

He signed on for, and is hilarious in, "the tonight show". Not "the tomorrow show". Network, show some guts and keep it where it is...

You're damn right Conan! At least you know that it's about the class (or no class) of the situation.

conan has class, something that leno and nbc lack.
after working nearly 20 years for the tonight show, leno could care less whether he participates (or causes) its destruction...all leno cares about is himself.
nbc, well, what do you say, you thought they learned from their mistakes nearly 20 years ago...obviously, not so, they know how to screw anything up.

There is no one like Conan! He is truly a master of comedy and has had such a history of this with his behind-the-scenes writing. He is also great on stage. I have watched him from the beginning. I love him, my students love him and he is a refreshing change. Leno's time is now overdue!!!His humor is tiresome... This is coming from a Leno peer.

Although I am not a viewer of late night TV, and was never a huge Conan fan, I give much kudos to him for this statement made with class and dignity, and above all, for standing up and doing what's right by his friend, Jimmy Fallon. It's not Conan's fault that Leno can't make a decision and be done with it, yet Conan is being made the sacrificial lamb for NBC's idiotic programming strategy.

I grew up watching the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, not Carson or Conan. I tried to watch the tonight show with Conan and I JUST DON'T LIKE IT. He has a comedy that is only funny if you are high on weed. I watch the Jay Leno Show every day. Man he is funny. I will always watch and respect this guy. Jay has been given the short end of the stick since he started the Tonight Show. Back when he got it, he was set up for failure. Those in the high office in NBC back then thought he would not make it. For the first couple of months he wasn't getting the rateings, then he blew Letterman out of the water and held it ever since, 17 years at number. NBC tried something and it faled. Put Jay back and retake the rateings again. Conan every says is a class act, I see right through what he did with the letter. Trying to gain sympathey from viewers to keep him on the show. It would only last for days, but his rateings will never beat Letterman. Show NBC keep firm and if Conan can't take a change, good luck to him.

GO Conan GO! NBC, please keep the tradition going strong of the Tonight Show airing right after the late local news. What would Johnny Carson do?

It's all about generations. Some people don't get Conan but I am a Gen-Xer and Conan gets my kind of humor and the humor my peers appreciate. It's time to transition to the next Generations and not keep rehashing Leno/ Carson.

Go Conan. Jay, please retire already. It's overdue by miles.

I like what Alissa said, "What would Johnny Carson do?"

Johnny would be turning over in his grave. But he would commend Conan for being a class act. Conan isn't going to wreck Jimmy Fallon's career the way Jay Leno has wrecked his.

I am 50, and I watch CONAN.

My father is 80, and he and his wife watch LENO.

NBC, where is your audience? Where is your future? With my 80-year-old dad? What are you thinking?

Leno, your experiment failed. Get down off your big giant ego, and go drive your flashy cars, and do your hobbies, but stop screwing up the Tonight Show.

Conan has CLASS and understands there is tradition behind the Tonight Show.

Leno has NO CLASS and ONLY EGO and ONLY CARES ABOUT HIMSELF.

Go to Vegas, be another Wayne Newton, Leno. But stay the hell off the Tonight Show as it isn't your show anymore. You really are acting like a bully, an egomaniac, and a bully.

 
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