Was Conan responsible for the Leno late night debacle?

By | January 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm | 5 comments | Audio/Video, News, TV/Movies | Tags: , , , ,

Conan O'BrienWe’re not sure how many of our readers watch the Oprah Winfrey Show, even when someone like Jay Leno guests on the chat fest. So, in the event, you didn’t catch his interview yesterday with Lord Oprah, Nikki Finke over at Deadline.com has provided the entire transcript for our reading pleasure.

Most interesting, in our opinion, is a part of the discussion when Winfrey asks Leno to explain how NBC originally asked him to leave his Tonight Show spot five years ago, despite him being number one in the ratings. Check it out

WINFREY: When they came into your office, they, NBC executives, come to your office, your show is number one in nighttime and tell you that you’re going to be moving out in five years, what is your first reaction to that?

Mr. LENO: It broke my heart. It really did. I was devastated. This is the job that I always wanted and it was the only job that ever mattered in show business to me. It’s the job every comic aspires to. And it was just like, “What’s–why–what is it?” “Well, we’re getting pressure here and Conan’s people want to make this announcement and to make sure you do leave we want to announce it right now, you know, prior to the five years.” And I said, “Can we at least wait and as I said the other night on my show, couldn’t we wait until I’m number two and then say, okay, he dropped to number two, that’s the reason we’re moving you.”

WINFREY: So in your mind this happened or that move happened, because Conan wanted that spot?

Mr. LENO: Yeah.


Mr. LENO: Well, what happened was Conan’s contract was up and ABC I think and some other networks were making overtures.
WINFREY: To Conan.

Mr. LENO: NBC didn’t want to lose him.

WINFREY: So they asked you to move out in order to make room for Conan to promise Conan “The Tonight Show” slot.

Mr. LENO: Right. Right.

WINFREY: Even though your show was number one at the time?

Mr. LENO: Mm-hmm.

WINFREY: So that broke your heart?

Mr. LENO: Yeah, it really did. I mean it was–I was devastated. I’m not a person who carries my emotions on the sleeve, but you know something? I’m happy with what I had, it was a tremendous success up to that point, I’m going to do the best I can to keep it number one for the next five years.

Interesting, to say the least. We wonder if this recollection would make any member of Team Coco see Conan as partly responsible for the current late night debacle. What do you think? In the meantime, check out some video from yesterday’s interview below.

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  • John

    @Mary: So you’re saying Leno’s a bad guy for _agreeing_ to NBC top brass? Yeah, that makes sense. If your boss asked you to do something different, wouldn’t you do it? Of could you would. If you don’t it’s called insubordination and you’ll find yourself unemployed very soon.

    I remember a time when being a company man, doing what your boss asked you to do, was considered a _good_ thing in the workplace.

  • Mary

    Most members of Team CoCo already know about the accusation that Conan “forced” Jay out of The Tonight Show in 2004. They would point out that Conan had been working at Late Night for 11 years at that point and that it’s normal for ANY person to want to move along after doing the same job for 11 years. And what Conan did that Jay did not do – he was HONEST with NBC about the fact that “Hey, I’d really like an 11:30 job.” If Jay had also been honest and said “Hey, you know what? I’m not ready to leave 11:30. You figure out what to do with Conan or I’m going to ABC/FOX,” I don’t think people would hold that against him. But Jay all but admitted in the Oprah interview that he didn’t want to go to another network because it was a big risk and a lot of work. So Conan’s paying the price for Jay’s laziness and dishonesty.

  • http://www.iacomedyfest.wordpress.com Joel Fry

    Even if this is exactly how the NBC shuffle went down in 2004, verbatim, I’m still on Conan’s side.

  • Beverly

    I don’t trust Leno for a second. In WWII, that man would have sold you to the Nazis if you stood in his way. No scruples.

  • MaryJ


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