If you read this blog frequently, you know that I am a huge Conan fan. What NBC is contemplating doing to him right now spurred me to write the following post.
Regardless if you play for Team Leno or Team Conan, and which brand of comedy you prefer, I welcome your comments. Those who fall in either camp are steadfastly supportive of their heroes. All I can say is: BRING. IT. ON.
You have been the bastion of many jokes for quite some time now. Lots of media outlets proclaim you the "fourth place network". This is true regardless of whether you consider the CW and MyTV to be actual networks--which they aren't, in my humble opinion.
Lots has been written, tweeted, and blogged about your prime time programming, especially with the addition of The Jay Leno Show to your lineup. When it was announced that the former Tonight Show host was now getting a 10 PM slot, there was lots of speculation as to why you had moved to that slot. Some said that they kept him at 10:00 to "protect Conan"; they were afraid he'd jump ship and kill Conan's ratings once he moved to the Tonight Show. Others, like me, felt it was a vast conspiracy: If Conan majorly bombed, and didn't bring the ratings the Peacock wanted, they had Leno as a backup.
Well, it looks like the latter theory has come to fruition, and it upsets me not just as a Conan fan, but also really saddens me as a human being.
I was a high school junior back in 1993 when it was announced that Jay Leno would succeed Johnny Carson as the host of the Tonight Show. Remember the firestorm that caused, NBC? Mr. Carson wanted his good friend David Letterman to be his successor, and then Letterman was so distraught that he up and left your network? And to think of the relationship that Carson and Letterman had; Carson was a true mentor to him. And when Carson died, was it Leno who did an entire tribute show to him upon his passing? No, NBC, it was Mr. Letterman, who did a beautiful tribute on his Late Show on CBS, complete with the following:
- Carson-era Tonight Show bumpers that appeared before and after commercials;
- former Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally as guest (yes, I know he also worked for Letterman, but still...);
- Carson's band leader, Doc Severinsen appeared as musical guest, playing his trumpet alongside Paul Shaffer in a loving tribute;
- an opening monologue full of jokes that Johnny Carson told throughout his years as Tonight Show host.
Speaking of David Letterman, say what you will about him and the sex scandal from a few months back, but let's give him some credit here, too. When Conan O'Brien succeeded him as the host of Late Night, there was a lot of doubt that he would succeed. David Letterman served as a mentor to him in his formative years, appearing on his show, and even sending his standby audience to 30 Rock to help him fill the seats.
Well, Mr. O'Brien did succeed, so much so that, back in 2004, he was named Jay Leno's successor to the Tonight Show. According to the press that I read at the time, NBC's wish was to avoid another Leno/Letterman succession fiasco.
Well guess what, NBC--that backfired. Big time.
It's bad enough that you had to do this to David Letterman. But to do it twice?!?! Conan moved across the country, not just with his writers and staff, but with his family (with two very young children, by the way) and their families. They've been out in Los Angeles for seven months now. You built a brand new studio for him on the Universal Studios lot. And now all of a sudden, you ring the bell and proclaim that recess is over?!?!
Consider Conan's backstory, NBC: here's a guy who once worked with you on a week-by-week contract. He once was a television writer who suddenly got his own show, succeeding a late-night legend. There are many who vehemently dislike Conan's humor, but even those who do have got to admire what it took him to get to where he is now. Everyone loves a success story such as Conan's.
Since I started writing this post half an hour ago, I cannot tell you how many tweets, Facebook groups, and blog postings have emerged in support of Conan. And the longer I'm on my Twitter account, reading the tweets that pop up since my initial search, hundreds more enter the feed. Ninety-five percent of said tweets have a favorable opinion of Mr. O'Brien.
I've been spending the last twenty minutes trying to think of a suitable conclusion to my angry letter, and all I can come up with is this: TEAM CONAN. Two words that so nicely summarize my feelings.
Conan, his family, and all those affiliated with the Tonight Show, deserve a helluva lot better.