The Late Shift II: Conan O’Brien Issues Lengthy Statement, Tells NBC to Suck It

Ah, the drama surrounding NBC’s late-night programming — it’s like 1992 all over again! This time around, NBC awarded the outstanding Conan O’Brien with The Tonight Show, but aims to bring Jay Leno back to the 11:35 time slot for a half-hour program. This would move O’Brien’s show to 12:05 and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon even later.

I must admit that I’m biased and greatly prefer O’Brien over Leno, but I don’t see how anyone can think this is anything but a dick move on NBC’s part. It’s disrespectful and discourteous, even more so than the aforementioned Leno/Letterman struggle after Johnny Carson’s retirement (watch the excellent movie The Late Shift for more info). I’m completely behind O’Brien on this one and I hope that he gets everything he wants.

Check out O’Brien’s full statement and let me know which side you’re on (please)!

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.




Author: RPadTV


25 thoughts on “The Late Shift II: Conan O’Brien Issues Lengthy Statement, Tells NBC to Suck It”

  1. Ha! Leave it to Conan to crack a joke in the face of total seriousness. Ladies and gentlemen, we have found our (older, high school teacher) Spiderman.

    I love Conan and would back him up over that over-blown wall-chin any day. Unfortunately, I stopped watching his show on a regular basis because I just can't pull myself away from The Daily Show and Colbert Report one-two punch combo- an hour of pure pundit pandering absurdity and hilarity… most of the time, anyway.


  2. Leno should retire like he said he would do, instead it seems he is being a dick and not wanting to leave. He had his time, let the better man take the show over and not be forced to leave!

  3. Hrolf is spot on. Leno should hang it up. I suppose he's worried about his staff and all… but the situation may be bigger than that.

    Leno was a dick to Letterman too though, so I don't know where this will go. I just hope Conan doesn't feel ousted out.

  4. I'm in the minority here…but I prefer Leno over OBrien. Conan is a good when he isn't seen…like writing for the Simpsons. I at least like when I see a clip of Jay Leno talking about his cars or something.

    Full disclosure: I don't watch any of these shows. I catch articles or small clips on the internet. I could care less about hearing whatever hollywood personality thinks is funny in their personal life or to hear them plug a new movie or show coming out very soon.

  5. Agreed, while I care little for the interviews, I do enjoy the little comedy bits they do before hand. Even that though, Leno's stuff is not as funny usually. I would love to see Conan go over to Comedy Central again and follow up Colbert with a show of his own.

  6. I like Leno and Conan and would rather not lose either. Don't care about Fallon.

    I dunno what they should do here, but the idea of a Stewart/Colbert/O'Brien lineup for comedy central reminds me of their crazy "feud" they had 2 years ago. They all work well together. I could see it being a good thing.

  7. Just take a look at my avatar on Twitter, and that'll tell you where my allegiances lie. It was done by a freelance artist that works with Rainn Wilson on, whom disseminated it for the masses to use as they see fit at

  8. I am forever in Conan's corner. I never really thought Leno was actually funny. I grew up watching Conan's writing for the Simpsons and for SNL.

    When Leno went to give up the Tonight Show he should have called it quits. Instead, NBC lost 5 hours of programming and they are now down in the dumps due to it.

    Also, this initial move in turn lead to the cancellation of the show Life. Which was my favorite tv show ever. Of all time.

  9. @leyke

    those were funny times haha


    i'm in conan's corner. it seems like a really bad part in nbc's judgement and doing. plus its a really douche move

  10. i like leno personally, i think hes a good dude…or did think that, anyways, but im in the "cone zone"

    leyke nailed it with the comedy central idea though, who cares about the tonight show anymore anyways?

  11. @Mr. Padilla;

    That may have been true when Johnny Carson had it, but as Conan pointed out, it's prestige is quickly diminishing thanks to NBC's actions. What was once a show and time slot of prominence has become nothing more than a shell of its former self.


  12. i agree with the iceman, the tonight show isnt the same animal anymore. Its a lot like the price is right, an old venerated institution which just isnt the same without its patriarch..(yes i know steve allen hosted before johnny did, but johnny made that show)

    i dont have ANY friends who watch the tonight show regularly, none. I love conan but i am beginning to truly HATE nbc…..particularly since comcast just bought a majority stake in nbc universal….and comcast can go to hell ray, they can just go to hell

  13. but that said, i understand what you meant…a comedians dream was to go on johnnys tonight show, do well, then get called over by johnny after the set…jeff foxworthy said that that was the biggest thrill of his professional career

    if you are too drunk to fish you might be a redneck

  14. Yea, it WAS the Holy Grail for comedians, but really, I think Stewart and Colbert have kinda dethroned network latenight, or have at least risen to being equals.

    In fact, I think that holds true for cable vs network TV as a whole.

  15. @Ieyke I love Stewart and Colbert, but they mostly skew to a younger audience. The Tonight Show has a much broader reach. I also wouldn't call either of the Comedy Central shows prestigious. I'm also pretty sure Conan/Jay have receive much bigger paychecks than Stewart/Colbert.

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