In light of the newest shakeup over at NBC, Conan released a statement today explaining his plans, and what he thinks of this whole situation of which he’s become the unfortunate victim.
I was very touched and pleased by Conan’s words, and not just because of how big a fan of him I am. He hit on everything I was feeling about this predicament, and treated it with an immense amount of class.
He begins by talking about the institution that is “The Tonight Show,” growing up watching Johnny Carson, and how “the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me.” He also explains how much thought and effort he put in during the six years NBC granted him the opportunity to take over in 2009, “thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future.” Like him, and like many other fans, I was very excited to see what Conan would do with the 11:35 timeslot, as I knew he would undoubtedly bring some of his own unique style of comedy into the most coveted of all Late Night shows. As a television major and a comedy fan, it was an exciting and important time for both the medium and it’s history.
An interesting thing about television history, specifically with NBC and Conan – sometimes, it takes some patience to realize a show’s full potential – 16 years ago, Conan took over “Late Night,” and it took awhile for him to come into his own. Even Leno had a grace period before becoming the late night ratings juggernaut at 11:35. (Other examples see Seinfeld, The Office, etc.) Conan was obviously expecting some of the same leeway when taking over the tonight show last May –
“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.”
Obviously, the difficulties in prime-time were Leno’s 10pm show, which was destined to fail from its inception, just ask anyone who ever commentated on it. A good parallel to make is in sports – NBC made the move to save some money, just like a sports team neglecting to sign any new free agents and settle with the young talent they have, only to regret it when their season is over halfway through, and are forced to make big moves next offseason. Okay, a little bit of a stretch, but in both cases, the fans are the voice of reason and outrage, and the team/network tries to fix it.
NBC wants to keep Conan and Jimmy Fallon on the network, obviously, and shift their shows 30 minutes. Conan, like many over the past few days, notes that having “The Tonight Show,” on past midnight doesn’t make much sense –
“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.”
I admire Conan’s respect for the two shows that meant so much to him over his years in Late Night. NBC inadvertently may be ruined both long-running franchises by shifting their schedule around like this. (Although at this point, it looks as though Leno is suited to take over “The Tonight Show” at 11:35). I can put it no better words than Conan – “I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.”
Conan’s statement brings up strong points and heavy emotion. In fact, I was surprised at how strongly I reacted to it at first. I’ve been annoyed and upset by this whole situation when it was first reported last week, and this statement makes me both more upset about how it going to turn out, and more proud of how Conan is handling it, and not allowing NBC to treat him this way.
It really is an unfortunate situation for all parties – NBC because they’re in 4th place and scrambling to make things work, Leno because he’s seen as the bad guy, even though it wasn’t his decision to leave “The Tonight Show” in the first place, not his original idea of moving to 10pm, and not really his fault NBC wants him back in his old spot. I see it as like the premise behind the movie “The Baxter” – Leno is the old boyfriend that the girl dumps because of some stupid reason, then Conan comes in for a little bit, while the girl slowly realizes that she was more happy with the first guy. Conan is “The Baxter,” the hard-luck loser who ends up with nothing.
I’m sad to see Conan go, but happy with his decision, his statement and his overall humor and class throughout his career. Not to leave his fans without a laugh, Conan concludes his statement with an apology – “for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.”
You don’t have to apologize Conan. Not for your hair, not for anything. Thanks for everything, good luck with whatever you end up doing.