After watching Jay Leno on Oprah’s show on Thursday I have to say that I really do feel for him a little more now. Some may label me as being too soft, but I think both Conan and Jay got the shaft in this whole ordeal as NBC tried to take something away from Leno when he was on top, and they gambled with Conan thinking that five years would be enough for Leno to want to leave his show when the time came, which of course, didn’t happen that way. NBC was trying to predict the future and it inevitably failed for them and it ended up thrusting both of these late night hosts into a bad situation.
The only part of the interview that I absolutely disagreed with was when Leno made the comment that he lives strictly on the money he makes from his stand up comedy bits and not the money NBC paid him to do his shows. I’m sure he taps into his millions from the Tonight Show from time to time to take care of all his cars.
However, in the interview he mentions that NBC decided that they were going to pull him away from his Tonight Show back in 2004 in five years time despite the fact that he was number one. Leno claims it was all being done to keep Conan from switching to another network as his contract was almost up at the time in 2004. It looks like Leno may have been the one who had the carpet pulled from underneath him first. He really did not seem like he was ready to go from his show and he couldn’t figure out why NBC wouldn’t let him keep it while he was still number one. Honestly, I have to say I can’t blame him for that. So to make a rational excuse, Leno announced his “retirement” as the reason he would pass the torch in 2009. This seeming like a logical explanation, no one thought anymore of it. The thought didn’t cross anyone’s minds that O’Brien was trying to bump Leno.
So after seeing this interview, perhaps it is just that I am gullible and susceptible to the PR job that Leno is trying to do here so that he can repair his image, I have to say that I do feel for Jay Leno more than I did before he came out and talked about the whole fiasco on Oprah. People often mention that Leno had this planned from day one, but I really do not think so. I don’t think he knew anymore than the rest of the world did about what was going to happen in 2010 when this whole mess failed. That is simply just another conspiracy theory like all the naysayers on whether or not we actually went to the moon. Leno was just going along with what NBC was planning to do.
Like Leno, I believe that all of this comes down to numbers. That is what television is about, numbers. Conan for whatever reason could not pull in the numbers that NBC wanted in his time slot so they decided to bump him. Even though I am a fan of Conan I do understand what NBC was thinking about when they were making their decisions. Although O’Brien wouldn’t agree to the time slot move, I feel that perhaps it would have helped his show if he had moved to 12:05am. He was getting a poor lead in from the local news due to Leno failing in primetime. Had Leno have been his lead in after the news once again, perhaps O’Brien’s ratings would have soared and when Leno finally retired for good at some point O’Brien would have gotten his time slot back with top numbers. But of course, all of this is purely speculation because no one knows for sure what may have happened.
I believe the interview shows that Leno wasn’t being selfish about this whole mess. When he said that he asked to be released from his contract when NBC approached him to do a half hour show at 11:35pm it showed that Leno did not want to bump Conan. The fact that NBC would not let him simply leave the network shows that O’Brien’s Tonight Show was struggling and NBC knew it. If all of the people had tuned into The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien as faithfully as they had during his last couple of weeks, then it would have most likely been game over for Leno when NBC pulled the plug on his primetime gig.
So as for who is right and who is wrong in this whole late night conundrum I don’t know, and it’s not my place to say. All I can say is that perhaps neither man was right or wrong and it is the network, NBC, itself that was wrong. They shouldn’t have tried to take away a show that was number one when Leno had it so far in advance. Even though O’Brien was threatening to move to another network at the time, they should have waited to see how Leno was going to do before making the announcement official. I think that NBC just rushed into everything without thinking and did its planning too early.
Finally, I am a huge Conan O’Brien fan but I am just one person and it takes more than just one to keep a show on the air. As I mentioned previously, if all of the people watching the last couple of weeks on O’Brien’s show had tuned in for the last seven months then this situation would have ended much differently.
I don’t believe that Jay Leno is an evil man who was out to get Conan, I think that this is like everything else in the world of business. Many people tend to forget that what we watch on television is simply that, a business. They are in this to make money. If they weren’t making money with O’Brien then they made the obvious business choice to let him go and see if the man who once made money for them can do it once again. Like everything else in this economy NBC is simply trying to survive. Jay you definitely have your work cut out for you! And Conan, I can’t wait to see you on another network soon! I’m sure this is just an opening to a better future for you.
What do you think about his interview?