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The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien: Cancelled, What’s Next for Conan?

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien canceledNo matter if you’re on Team Conan or Team Leno, we can all agree that NBC has serious problems. The Jay Leno Show experiment is a big flop and, though the network seemed okay with its low ratings (likely because of the relative low expense), the NBC affiliate stations weren’t. Their local newscasts were being hurt by the poor lead-in.

The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien got off to a good start but the ratings quickly dropped. As a result, the Tonight Show is being regularly beaten or tied by Late Show with David Letterman. During Jay Leno’s rein, Tonight had a big lead over the Late Show for more than a dozen years. The peacock network was hoping that O’Brien would attract a bigger percentage of the 18-49 demographic but it hasn’t happened.

The O’Brien camp’s argument is that the new Tonight has had a poor lead-in and that they’ve not been given enough time to establish the show. After all, Leno’s Tonight wasn’t an immediate success and the network was patient.

But apparently, time is a luxury that NBC either does not have or is not willing to give. As a result of pressure from the affiliates, and likely because of the upcoming Comcast purchase, NBC is cancelling O’Brien and return Leno to Tonight.

Where should O'Brien go?

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TV Guide has confirmed that NBC has re-signed Leno to host The Tonight Show. The details are apparently still being worked out but O’Brien’s final show could come as soon as January 22nd. The show was already scheduled to be on hiatus the following week.

Barring any last minute changes, Leno will return to Tonight once NBC finishes its coverage of the Winter Olympics.

What’s next for O’Brien? Reportedly, O’Brien’s exit deal won’t prohibit him from immediately going to a competitor. So, he’ll likely end up doing a new late night show for another network — the scenario that NBC tried to avoid by setting up the Tonight deal six years ago.

At one time, it would have seemed like a done deal that O’Brien would be heading for ABC. But the alphabet network has been having some success with their own late night schedule and aren’t interested in changing. Earlier this week, ABC chief Steve McPherson said that he has no plans to change their current lineup.

O’Brien’s other big option is FOX, now headed by former NBC boss Kevin Reilly. Official talks between O’Brien and any network can’t begin until he’s released from his NBC contract but it’s believed there is serious interest. O’Brien’s humor meshes better with FOX’s image and younger demographic so the two could be a very good fit. Some affiliate stations aren’t pleased by the possibility though because, right now, they’re airing syndicated programming after their newscasts and doing well from the ad revenue.

What do you think? Where should O’Brien go? How long will it take him to get back on the air with a new show? Will you be watching?

 

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

rosie February 26, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I will never watch Jay again i have been a long time fan i watch cable

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kie January 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

whether you think leno is at fault or not, the facts are clear. hes an asshole and nbc has messed up royally. leno WILL fail. conan will succeed. its set in stone.

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Bookworm January 27, 2010 at 4:25 pm

The “facts” according to you and your clearly biased thinking.

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Lee January 27, 2010 at 4:07 am

In the end, Conan is really the one who got hosed. NBC should have let him go to another Network years ago, and then wooed him back when Jay was READY to retire. Now I’m not a big Jay fan, but I always thought that forcing him into retirement was nonsense. ANY of us in Jay’s position would likely make the choice he made – ‘Network wants me off the show, but not gone. Okay. New show. New show sucks, Network wants to put me back in the old time slot because that’s what makes us all money. Sure!’

NBC offering Jay the Tonight Show if Conan walked from the job (and Conan is right, if the Tonight Show started at 12:05, it wouldn’t have been the ‘Tonight’ Show) was a deal designed to just make Conan fans even angrier with Jay – DUH Jay was going to take it back, he didn’t want to leave in the first place and since then has only been trying to make his bosses and fans happy.

NBC execs are cruel, Conan got hosed, and Jay is unfortunate to have been used as the weapon in this whole stupid debacle.

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Bookworm January 27, 2010 at 6:24 am

Thank you Lee. You have don’t have to be a Jay fan to be able to see that he wasn’t the bad guy in this situation. Whether or not you think he should just slink off and let Conan stay (and keep in mind just like Conan has a staff that he’s loyal too, so does Jay, and he also wants to keep them working), NBC orchestrated this entire mess.

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