Tuesday, January 12, 2010

King Conan

So, Conan O'Brien opposes NBC's decision to move The Tonight Show back to 12:05 am because doing so would push Jimmy Fallon's Late Show to 1:05 am. I've read a couple posters on other blogs state that this is so brave and principled on Conan's part. Especially in the face of Jay Leno's unabashed conniving to win back the 11:35 pm slot.

It's that last part that gets me. Listen, I'm no Leno apologist (he's hovering pretty low on the Late Night Leaderboard), but you can't tell me Conan didn't throw him under the bus back in 2004 to win his guaranteed 2009 ascendancy to The Tonight Show. No one, but no one, really bought the line that Leno was happy with that plan: the guy's a notorious workaholic who commanded the number one show in that time slot. If the audience wasn't tired of him, and he wasn't tired of the show, why leave?

Well, he left because NBC asked him to. He moved to 10 pm because NBC asked him to, and he's moving to 11:35 pm because NBC asked him to. But no one talks about loyalty or making the best of a bad situation. They call him a corporate stooge and blame all of NBC's problems -- and there are enough of those to go around, granted -- on him.

Give it a rest. The guy's got a good gig and he wants to keep it. Tell me you wouldn't do the same and I'd call bullshit on you so fast your head would spin.

I predicted just the other day that Conan stays and I'm sticking with that prediction.
  • I'm not convinced Fox wants him at this point -- they've already seen that he has a hard time attracting either a large audience or a prized demographic. Remember: Conan's Late Night lost a few times to Craig Ferguson at his old 12:30 am slot; this guy is anything but a Nielsen sure thing. 
  • He can still bank the money remaining on his contract, which is more than he'll get from any new deal. His negotiation position is harmed by the fact that, other than Fox, he can't really approach anyone else. ABC has already said no thanks (although I am certain they'd still take Leno in a second) and Comedy Central has Stewart and Colbert. Syndication would simply be embarrassing: instead of following Johnny Carson, he'd be following Arsenio Hall.
  • I'm not sure Conan's done after his current contract expires. Originally, I thought NBC would dump him post haste, but what if he simply asks for a contract extension to assuage his bruised ego? He has a great franchise, a great contract and a great opportunity to prove everyone wrong by earning a larger audience. All at the only network that has publicly stated they want to have him.
We'll see. This story literally gets better by the day. And I didn't think anything would top Leno vs. Letterman.

Two final thoughts:
  • Love how Nicki describes Conan as an "uncomfortable twitching wreck." And, believe it or not, she's on his side.
  • Am I seriously the only one who likes Jimmy Fallon? That boy is taking a real whupping on the boards. Still, I like him and hope he survives this.