It has been many months since the executives at NBC made the terrible decision of removing Conan O'Brien from The Tonight Show. Even though he was paid 30 million dollars or so just to leave the network, I always felt sorry for the way that Conan had been used by the peacock after he gave them over a decade and a half's worth of original late night programming. However, there is one other person in this whole disaster that became the target of everyone's fury and his name is obviously Jay Leno. I have read many reviews, blogs, and articles that have gone out of their way to demonize the long standing tonight show host over this unfortunate incident. But every once in a while, it is necessary to go against the grain and that is what this review will attempt to do. The very idea of coming to Jay Leno's defense is severely looked down upon by many twenty somethings and thirty somethings who have held a grudge against this man for as long as I can remember. But after reviewing the details of this event, I strongly feel that someone has to stand up for Jay even if it's not the most popular or accepted thing to do. Leno may not have handled things 100% perfectly here, but he is definitely not responsible for Conan's departure from NBC.
Let's go all the way back to the beginning. Jay Leno announced in 2004 that he was handing over the tonight show to Conan. At the time he made this announcement, he seemed more than happy at the time to give Conan his spot. Many years later, Jay admitted that he told a fib that night. He was actually very upset about losing his tonight show gig and that it was the network, and not Jay himself, who agreed to give his show over to Conan. Jay was completely mauled by the media over these comments. He was called every name in the book including liar, hypocrite, and an old fogey who didn't want to pass the torch on to the next generation. Let's remember some key facts here. Jay does NOT own the tonight show, so he doesn't have the power to make decisions about its future. Let's also remember that Jay is a company man. The reason why Jay lied is because he wanted to support the network's decision to bring Conan in even if he personally didn't agree with it. After everything that NBC has given Jay over the years, can you really blame him for keeping quiet about his true thoughts? He was simply trying to be polite and respectful in a situation that he clearly wasn't happy with. Maybe he should've told the truth a lot earlier, but given how much fans had it out for Jay prior to this, it really would not have made much difference. When people dislike someone enough, they will most likely continue to dislike that person even if there is evidence (or lack thereof) that proves contrary to the reason why that particular person is disliked in the first place.
About a year or so before Conan was scheduled to take over the tonight show, it was announced that Jay Leno would be starting his own primetime talk show at 10pm after he hands over the tonight show reins to Conan. The move would be risky considering that Jay's competition would be highly watched shows such as CSI, but Jay was not ready to retire and he wanted to take the gamble. Also, NBC wanted to keep Jay with the network in some capacity since his tonight show was still doing pretty well in the ratings. Once again, Jay was severely criticized for this decision as well. Many critics felt that Jay's desire to stay on the air was a slap in the face to Conan and that he should've just left TV altogether in the way that Johnny Carson did back in the early 90's in order to give Conan a chance. The critics also felt that Jay was too old to continue doing comedy and that he should leave in order to make room for Conan's younger, more edgier approach. I sort of understand the critics' reasoning here, but I once again have to disagree with them. As much as I respect Conan, why should Jay have to leave TV because he's older? Again, Jay never wanted to retire in the first place, so why are the fans and critics demanding that he leave just because he's in his 60's? David Letterman is older than Jay is, but I don't hear fans demanding that Dave get up and leave the biz. I also highly doubt that fans will be screaming for Conan to hit the bricks once he reaches his 60s as well. The truth is that the age argument has nothing to do with age itself and more to do with using yet another excuse to justfiy the fans' irrational hatred of Jay Leno. I can't blame Jay for wanting to stay on TV in some form especially when he didn't want to leave in the first place. I never felt that the 10pm idea was disrespectful to Conan in any way and I was interested to see what Jay would do with this new concept.
A few months after Conan became the new host of the tonight show, Jay Leno's new 10pm show got underway. The program received high ratings in its initial week, but later, those ratings plummeted, the news affiliates complained, and it became clear that the 10pm idea was not going to work out at all. One of the show's biggest criticisms was that it was too much like Jay Leno's old tonight show and that he could have freshened up his approach for this new endeavor. While I do agree that Jay should've done something different in order to make his new show more watchable, I also feel that Jay Leno was so hated by this point that there wasn't anything he could do to get these obsessed bashers to stop attacking him. It truly felt as though the critics were attacking the show not because of its content, but because Jay was the one hosting it. If Conan or anyone else had hosted a "Jay Leno" style program, I feel that the critics would not have been as severe in their condemnation of it. It was starting to become very obvious to me that there was an incredibly huge bias whenever someone discussed the Jay/Conan situation. Little did I know that things would get a whole lot worse just a few months later.
In January of 2010, NBC announced that Jay's 10pm show would be moved to 11:35 (the tonight show timeslot) while Conan's tonight show would be moved to midnight. The reasoning behind this was that Conan's ratings weren't very good and they wanted to put Jay (who they felt was their ticket to high viewership) back at that spot. This way, NBC hoped to bring back the viewers that they felt they had lost with Conan while still allowing Conan to be host of the tonight show. Obviously, Conan was not very happy with being shoved out of his timeslot in this terrible way, so he opted to leave NBC altogether. This, in turn, allowed the network to rename Jay Leno as the host of the tonight show and a month later, Jay was back in his regular timeslot once again doing his old gig. This turn of events infuriated many fans to put it lightly and Jay was raked over the coals like never before. Jay was blamed for Conan's low ratings because many fans felt that Jay's terrible 10pm show was serving as a poor lead in to Conan's tonight show and hurting his product. Again, this is a perfect example of how everything is always Leno's fault according to a few. Can't Conan get SOME responsibility for his show not doing well ratings wise? I'm not criticizing Conan by asking that question, I'm just making a logical argument. Jay's lead in most likely contributed to Conan's low ratings, but shouldn't Conan also take some of the blame as well since he is the host of the show? I'm just saying.
Being a long time Conan fan myself, I was frustrated about how poorly this situation was handled and how badly Conan was screwed over here. However, at the end of the day, my anger was at the NBC executives and not Jay himself because I knew he wasn't responsible for this. There really isn't one single shred of hard evidence that conclusively proves that Jay actively sought to destroy Conan's career and yet, there are so many fans who jumped the gun and portrayed Jay as a lucifer type figure who betrayed his apprentice brutally. The Conan fans even went so far as to take over Jay Leno's facebook page, put various "Team CoCo" logos all throughout the page, and leave derogatory comments towards Jay himself. I've always preferred Conan's style of comedy over Jay's, but now, it was becoming obvious that other fans who had the same Conan preference that I did were using this incident as a means to do something that they've wanted to do for a very long time. Belittle and attack Jay Leno ruthlessly despite the lack of evidence against him. It's really sad that some fans and critics seem to have a binary way of thinking when it comes to these two men. Us vs. Them. Conan vs. Jay. Light vs. Darkness. Conan was treated very badly here, but it wasn't Jay's fault. The misdirected anger toward Jay himself and not NBC is one of the saddest outcomes of this late night debacle.
Jay didn't really help matters very much when he gave an interview to Oprah about this whole ordeal a little while after this happened. While Jay did make some good points in the interview, he failed to show a lot of remorse towards Conan. Many fans took this lack of remorse as evidence that Jay had deliberately ruined Conan's dream and was proud of it. I beg to differ. Yes, Jay could have done much better with that interview. The fact that he focused mostly on himself and little on Conan is clearly not good considering that Conan got screwed far worse than Jay did. However, there is nothing in the interview itself that definitively proves that Jay had anything to do with what happened to Conan. He mentioned several times in the interview that the NBC execs were the ones who made this call. Even the execs themselves (including Jeff Zucker) back up his statement by saying that they were the ones who did this to Conan. So why does Jay continue to get unneccesary blame? Jay was also criticized in this interview for telling Oprah that he chose to go back to the tonight show rather than take an enormous severance package for leaving (which is what Conan did). I honestly can't blame Jay Leno for continuing to work with NBC even after all this mess. Jay's a very loyal guy and despite all this, NBC did make Jay what he is today. Plus, late night comedy is something he enjoys, so why should he give it up especially when he never wanted to give it up in the first place? Many stones have been cast at Jay Leno unnecessarily here. I feel very bad for what Conan had to go through in this predicament, but I also feel bad for Jay too. Jay might not be as big of a victim as Conan is here, but he is a victim nonetheless.
Anyway, I haven't really watched the tonight show since Jay became the host again. Knowing what NBC did to Conan, it's hard to sit through that program nowadays. I also don't think I'll watch Conan's new show when it debuts on TBS in a few months. Seeing as how the Conan fans demonized Jay to such an extreme, I don't think I could bring myself to watch that one either on a regular basis. I have respect for both Jay and Conan, but the ignorant, childlike behavior of both the NBC execs and critics alike have made me give this whole situation a -5 rating. There's too much finger pointing, too many bad decisions, and too much unneccsary Jay bashing going on for me to rank it any higher. The Tonight Show used to be an honored tradition. Now......I don't know what it is.
When I heard about NBC's decision to try to move Conan back to 12:05am so that Jay Leno could take advantage of an 11:35p timeslot to get more ratings, I was a little taken aback. Since when did a studio cowtow to a talent, even if they're Jay Leno? I think it's incredibly unfair to Conan that NBC is trying to push him back to 12:05am. In his statement (included below), he states that The Tonight Show would no longer be The Tonight Show, it'd be what? The … more
If you have been listening to entertainment news recently, you are probably aware that changes for Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien just didn't work out. Primarily because each were getting low ratings for their respective shows. Let me point out that the reason a show gets low ratings is because the writing on the show just isn't that good. Even someone like myself who thinks these two are nice guys, is not going to watch them tell bad jokes and do stupid skits night after night. Now it … more
I'm a 29 year oldwhoenjoys reviewing certainreality tv shows and scifi programming. I also post reviews on other topics every now and then as well. I enjoy being here on Lunch and interacting with … more
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On January 7, 2010, multiple media outlets reported that Jay Leno, former host of The Tonight Show, would move from his 10pm weeknight time slot on NBC to 11:35pm beginning March 1, 2010. The scheduling change was attributed to poor ratings from Leno's The Jay Leno Show and current host Conan O'Brien's version of The Tonight Show, and resultant pressure from NBC affiliates and NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker. The proposed change would have bumped The Tonight Show up to 12:05am, giving Leno the 11:35pm slot for his own show. The Tonight Show has held a time slot of approximately 11:30pm for nearly 60 years, dating back to the early tenure of Steve Allen.
Shortly thereafter, O'Brien indicated that he would quit his show and leave the network if NBC were to implement their proposal, citing the "destruction" of the venerable franchise. This led to a large show of support for O'Brien from various celebrities, fellow late night talk show hosts, and a growing number of supporters online on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
O'Brien's departure was officially confirmed by NBC on January 21 after nearly two weeks of negotiations; his final show will air Friday, January 22, and he along with his staff will receive a total of $45 million to walk away from the network. The controversy surrounding the scheduling move has been noted by multiple news outlets as "embarrassing" for the network and a "public relations disaster," with many feeling...