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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 }

Bookworm January 16, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Honestly, I’ve never really found Conan funny. He’s actually really irritating, especially when it comes to actually hosting a talk show. He doesn’t seem to understand that when you’re interviewing people, they’re supposed to do some talking to. And not talking that’s interrupted every few seconds for you to make a moronic joke. He might be a smart guy, but he was real good at acting like a moron. I know he’s a comic and he’s supposed to be funny, but there’s a delicate balance that he just didn’t get. Jay got it.

And I agree with Doug, the Jay bashing is ridiculous. He didn’t cause this. NBC started this by pushing him out before he was actually ready to retire. Personally, I more see it as Conan stealing the Tonight Show from Jay and now it’s being put back into the rightful hands. But in truth, it’s the NBC execs that are the bad guys in this whole thing, not Jay or Conan. Jay has staff too, staff that’s been working for him longer than Conan’s has and I don’t think he wants them to be out of work either. So I’m not going to begrudge him if he takes his show back. It was his in the first place, taken from him before he was ready to go and if I was him, I’d want it back as well. And I think anyone who criticizes him for it is a moron.

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picturedude January 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm

We watched Leno faithfully for his 17 years on “Tonight”. He’s funny. No denying that, or he wouldn’t have kicked other late night show’s a$$ regularly (Cough-LETTERMAN-Cough). I think Jay’s new show is just as good, & I think Conan’s Tonight Show is even funnier. We DVR both shows and watch all but guest interviews that happen to look boring. Don’t criticize Jay for stealing Tonight back from Conan. He didn’t go to NBC exects. and ask for Tonight back.
We’ll see you on FOX O’Brien!!!

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Doug January 16, 2010 at 12:24 am

Jay is a lot funnier than Conan. Conan did not fit into the Tonight Show model, he was too bazaar.
David Letterman has no business bashing Jay. He’s no angel himself. I also read Rosie’s comments…but who can respect that big mouth.

There is probably more behind the scenes that we are not aware of so Jay bashing is not necessary. How do you know Jay wanted to go go back? Don’t you think it is possible NBC made him a better deal and were going to fire Conan regardless? They just couldn’t find a decent host to continue carrying the Tomight Show tourch.

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Dalfurion January 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I’m with Coco, I’ve liked his show the best since back in the 90’s. Leno = over-rated, I don’t even know how or why he even gets any credit for anything personally, I agree with the guy that said the show is funny “in spite” of him, not “because” of him, but ok, be blind NBC, epic fail. FOX is too evil, FOX will just try to produce more propaganda behind his face, which I don’t think Conan would dig too much. The guy who said Comedy Central was right on the mark in my opinion, Comedy Central will treat him right. As far as a station that would be the best one I know of to go to.

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Rooster January 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I’m Glad Conan’s Gone!!!! He never was that funny. My family enjoyed the Tonight Show with Johnny & Jay for years. Glad to see they are changing it back to the way it should be!!

Thanks NBC!!!

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Tommy January 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I did not start watching the Tonight Show until Conan came on board. NBC is you suck! I hope Conan goes to Fox and kick’s Leno’s ?@!

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Joe January 15, 2010 at 3:50 pm

reign at The Tonight Show that I found the least bit funny had nothing to do with him: Jay Walking and Headlines. They are funny in spite of him, not because of him.

NBC is failing because it’s failing. The shows are of poor quality, PERIOD. I do not like ANY of their programming save for the ORIGINAL Law & Order. They have ALWAYS made poor choices, for all of their networks, including Sci-fi and USA. (I do not mentally acknowledge Sy-fy.) They cancelled Monk, Farscape; they are currently destroying In Plain Sight, My Name is Earl, Crossing Jordan, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the list goes on.

The good old days of Friends, e/r and the first four seasons of The West Wing are long gone. In fact, other than a handful of shows, I can’t find any that were given very much of a chance.

NBC should concede to the fact that they have run their course. Universal has just as bad a track record with their films as well; need I remind everyone of Howard the Duck.

All I can say is, I now will have NO reason to turn into NBC what so ever. Thank you TNT for showing Law and Order reruns.

FOX do yourself a favor, hire Conan and sink NBC once and for all.

J

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Joe January 15, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Jay Leno is the Brett Farve of talk show hosts. “I’m leaving, I’m retiring, I’m going here, I’m staying,” make up your minds. I am not a fan of either and wish they both would do the world a favor and go take a long walk off of a short pier.

Jay Leno has never been funny, see the movie Collision Course for proof of that. Conan was a head writer for The Simpsons during one of its highest-rated seasons; Marge vs. the Monorail is one of the all-time best episodes. He also was a sketch writer for SNL and HBO’s precursor to The Daily Show, Not Necessarily the News with Stuart Pankin and Lucy Webb. Both WERE very funny shows. What has Jay Leno done of merit? The two elements of Jay Leno

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Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 3:02 pm

McDonalds? really? Ya funny ha ha, Conan is going to be doing something really good, he’s funny and a fun comedian.

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mj January 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I think Conan is hilarious and has great potential. I’ve been watching him on TV for a very long time and there is no way this is the end of Conan. I think he should go to comedy central he will fit in great there!

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WolvenSpectre January 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Conan should get some backers and go into syndication rather that risk it with Fox the Destroyer who will give him 4 episodes and a sound check.

Also something that isn’t taken into account is that David Letterman threw a BIG wad of cash to try and take over top spot and also got people to put on their A Game… All of the few shows I watched after Conan took over were almost as good as it was back in the early days of the show when Letterman was the cool subversive show to watch.

Also, if Conan goes syndication, he can also do digital distribution online, which between that and Tivo is really why ratings are going down… they aren’t counting all the numbers.

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weinersim January 15, 2010 at 8:47 am

this article is a few days late.

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JH January 15, 2010 at 8:36 am

It’s amazing, NBC has four late night guys now – Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, and Carson Daly – and they’re ousting the only one who has any business hosting a show! Jay has proven himself to be a weasel in all of this with his little veiled threats about running to Fox. I say NBC should have called his bluff and let him go. He’s not funny and clearly if people really liked him they would have watched him at 10PM because he was doing the same stupid show he was doing at 11:30 for the past 17 years!

The fact is, Leno followed successful prime time programing. NBC has owned the 10PM slot for so long – ER, Law and Order, Homocide, etc. – and people tend to go from that to the local news and a little Tonight Show before signing off. But nobody was going to tune in to watch Jay, he was just lucky to come on while foks were nodding off with the TV on.

Leno’s show at 10 killed the momentum for O’Brien and now they’re putting him back at 11:30 and disrespectfully pushing back Conan’s fresh, funny Tonight Show. Conan’s statement was very classy and dignified – he is a true professional. I hope Leno and NBC feel the backlash and see their ratings plunge. Hopefully viewers will follow Conan to his next network. And if he doesn’t get another show, hopefully viewers turn to Dave or even Jimmy Kimmel – not just in protest, but in good taste.

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Janine January 15, 2010 at 8:18 am

I agree, Jay is dead to me too. I prefered him to Dave, but with his “By everyone!….Oh wait, I’m not done yet” routine here I’m entirely uninterested.
As for Conan, McDonalds is always hiring. Demo is young there.

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MK January 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

I used to like Leno….now he’s dead to me. The man clearly has no scruples at all. It’s hard to fathom how he could retake a show he left in good conscience, but I guess he doesn’t care how he sleeps at night.

Financially of course, Conan, Max and Andy will all be fine. I really feel for the families of these guys and the crew. Uprooted from NYC to move across the country for a gig that should have lasted at least as long as Late Night had.

I hope FOX picks up Conan and puts him at 11pm EST (10 central). The only negative is that places him opposite Jon Stewart who appeals to the same demo, but then again isn’t that what Tivo was invented for?

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