The Leno/Conan controversy has been out there, and I haven’t said anything about it because… well I don’t want it to be happening. I love Conan. I loved his show in the Late Night slot, and I followed him to the Tonight Show. I feel he’s only gotten stronger going from the move to the Tonight Show. While I admit, I can’t really speak for the past of the Tonight Show, what NBC and Jay Leno have done is frankly atrocious.
Well, Conan agrees, but not for the same reason. Conan has issued a statement, despite his representatives begging him not to do so, saying that moving the show into a new time-spot will ruin the integrity of the Tonight Show’s legacy. The statement seems heartfelt, and speaks to me as someone who has nothing but respect for the legacy that he inherited from so many comedians before him, and others that were effected by it in the industry.
The statement is long, but begs to be heard:
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.
While this statement does read as him leaving the Tonight Show, it seems more like he’s trying to force NBC’s hand. Conan’s going down fighting and I hope he comes out on top because of it.