Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

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Put me down in the "Team Conan" column...

Unless you live under a rock, you live in an underway submarine, or are my friend RB and thus oblivious to everything related to both television or pop culture, you know about the turmoil that has roiled the NBC late-night lineup in recent days. To quickly recap, the Peacock Network fulfills its contractual obligation to Conan O'Brien and gives him "The Tonight Show." To keep Jay Leno in the fold, they give the Chin-Master his own show at 10:00 each weeknight. Leno has been meeting the expectations of NBC and its advertisers, but the local affiliates are furious at the severe negative effect on their late local news (due to the smaller lead-in audiences). NBC has a real problem on its hands, and so comes up with a novel solution: restore Leno to 11:35, and push O'Brien (and by extension, Jimmy Fallon) to the right by thirty minutes. NBC would certainly be happy; they could keep everybody, wouldn't have to pay O'Brien a massive penalty (believed to be $45 million), since he would still be hosting "The Tonight Show," even if in name only. Fallon and Carson Daly (who would likely be the odd man out) may or may not be happy - but this isn't really about them. Jay Leno seemed to be on board; he'd still be paid, and only have to do "his monologue and one guest," as one pundit put it.

There's just one issue...and it's a tall, gangly, red-haired, dryly humorous, Harvard educated one. Mr. O'Brien is most decidedly NOT signing on to this. He may have a serious problem - the language in his contract doesn't guarantee him the 11:35 time slot. A couple of submariners could have negotiated a better deal than that. They'd know better than to believe in any "implied" guarantee based on six decades of tradition and precedent. If it's not in writing, you can't rely on Conan is harshly finding out.

Public (and by that I mean "Internet") sentiment is largely behind Coco after this statement, and I come down on the same side. His statement conveyed his position most artfully. Conan invokes a "Tonight Show" tradition that spans six decades, doesn't give the lawyers any openings (he forcefully states he's still under contract to NBC), and begins and ends with humor - and does all this while reminding us that NBC threw him under the bus, put the transmission of that bus in reverse, and slammed on the gas pedal.

The smart money has O'Brien heading to Fox and heading up a late-night franchise there. But one great sage has suggested this may not be his best course, and I'm inclined to agree. Via his Twitter, The Sports Guy suggests that Conan isn't right on any network at any hour prior to midnight. Bill's suggestion? O'Brien should move to Comedy Central and do an hour after Stewart and Colbert. In principle, I like the idea; it's a similar type of humor, and I think Conan would get a strong lead-in from the hour before him. But I think Conan would see that as dropping himself down a level or two, and thus Fox is likely to end up his home, even if NBC decides to put him in the proverbial "penalty box" for some length of time.

Hopefully, for the sake of all parties involved, this can be settled quickly so everyone can move on and, as Conan said yesterday, his "staff, crew, and [he] can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values [their] work" - which, after all is said and done, is the most important thing in all of this.
Tags: comedy, tv

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