Friday, January 15, 2010

Conan update

Like I said, things are changing every minute. Here’s the latest:

It looks like NBC will settle with Conan for somewhere around $40million and he is free to go elsewhere. Conan, showing even more class, wants his staff to be taken care of too. They moved to LA from New York just seven months ago and now they’re out of jobs. Meanwhile, other NBC executives are bad mouthing Conan (more like trashing) to the New York Times. Dick Ebersole called his an "astounding failure". Yeah, like Jay was a huge success. It's getting a little silly.

Guys! Aren’t you the ones always saying it’s just business and never personal?

Conan’s last show could be January 22nd. Jay would ultimate reclaim his TONIGHT SHOW. But it will be under a huge cloud. The nice guy Jay Leno image may just take a permanent hit. America could view him as a villain. Or just not view him at all.

All this could happen as early as tomorrow. Thanks to Nikki Finke, who as always, has the scoop.


Unknown said...

Actually, Sharon Waxman had the scoop at - I know someone who was in a meeting with her when the news broke from insiders.

ajm said...

I know Dick Ebersol's importance in the creation of "Saturday Night Live" and his work with NBC Sports, and I'm sorry his son died in that freak plane crash a few years ago. But using the NYTimes to hurl epithets at one of your own employees... that's classless.

MrCarlson said...

actually it looks like he settled around 30 million! what a schame. they'll actually pay a talented guy like that to NOT come to work. I guess there's no lower on the "we don't want your kind here" scale. Can we swear on these? 'cause this is fucking bullshit! I'm dying to see Jay Leno's first tonight show back. If there's some kind of justice in this world the audience will boo and hiss him out of the stage.

Conan said it best "Kids, you can have anything you want in life... unless Jay Leno wants it too". Big shout out to Jack McBrayer also. his stint as Kenneth the page on the show was priceless. "this is the 5 O'clock tour, it has always been the 5 O'clock tour...."

Unknown said...

There's no question Jay has fucked himself royally and Conan looks like the good guy (especially if he insists staff also get taken care of as per report)-it's a colossally stupid move (in the vein of Michael Jackson, a known drug addict, returning to tour-shortly before he died I publicly posted on TMZ he was in no condition to live through the tour and I was right, sadly) Jay won't die-well, probably not-but he's going to wish he did-there is no way he can turn this into a good thing and I think his core audience is the type that is fickle and suggestible-that means they won't stick with him and he'll be out the door-my guess is Leno will be lucky-lucky-to stay on the air until fall 2011 before being very uncermonioulsy booted-the weaknesses he had before are just going to get worse and there's not anything he can wrap around the show to make it more appealing-if the main ingredient in your prized souffle is bat guano, no matter what else you wrap around it it will come out the same.

If he had any real sense he would just realize he's beaten and the thing to do is negotiate the best settlement he can and bow out.

He won't and will fail miserably instead.

Rob said...

Has Jay Leno ever had a nice guy image? I always think of him as the guy at any large company who's you're best friend until he needs someone to dump on to get ahead. I've never heard a lot of love for Jay, nor seen much humanity beyond your average celebrity bullshit.

I think this entire mess has painted Jay Leno for what he is, an unfunny scheming bastard. His show at 10 PM was like his 11:30 show on steroids: loud, unfunny and derivative as all hell.

Case in point.... Leno had a bit last night called Don't Try This At Home. Premise? People come on and perform stupid tricks. Wow, where did that come from?

I have to applaud Jimmy Kimmel for using his platform on Leno's show last night to call him out as the prick he is. I didn't see any love on Kimmel's face, and Leno looked pretty angry. Good. I'm with CoCo myself.

See for yourself:

DwWashburn said...

If Conan cared about his staff, he would have taken the midnight time slot. Conan cares about Conan. That's all.

Unknown said...

What Leno's done to Conan - or more precisely, what Leno's allowed NBC to do to Conan in his name - is an ugly, graceless spectacle. I hope karma absolutely craters Leno's ratings when he returns. As for Conan, I've liked him since college, but he's gone way above and beyond my already-high opinion of him. May he find good fortune on a network that actually respects him.

Unknown said...

[b]DwWashburn:[/b] Conan also had Jimmy Fallon to think about. NBC deliberately made him an offer he wouldn't take.

Rob said...

Washburn, NBC screwed the pooch with Leno in the first place. Do you honestly think NBC REALLY wanted to keep Conan? If so, they'd have pulled the plug on Leno and kicked HIM to the curb.

The problem with Leno was the same as it was before he left the Tonight Show. He simply wasn't funny. I honestly think that his show functioned as Ambien for people too lazy to tune from NBC's lineup. They were a little more awake at 10, saw Leno as a horrid substitute for Law And Order: Parking Violations, and flipped somewhere else at 10 PM.

Conan cares about Conan for sure. He jumped at a huge opportunity and brought his staff across country with him thinking he'd get at least as much time as they gave him when he was stinking up NBC years ago.

Unknown said...

Mary Conan will do fine-he's well known and multi-talented in the comedic sciences, per se-he could be a writer, as he's already been, a producer (what I wouldn't give for him to produce my movie), continue on as a host-a million other things-it takes no special talent to host a show-it does but the fact is there are an endless number of people out there capable of doing a good job at it-including me-that doesn't mean I or they will, but I/they COULD.

All these guys are in the same ball park although I think Leno is the weakest and that's also the general consensus among professionals. All are capable of hosting a show.

What CAN'T be done is to overcome negative image, press and publicity-that is the finisher. And that's why it's all downhill from here on for Leno and NBC until they fix the mess they made-which means getting rid of Zucker, then Leno and then rebuilding like a damaged football team-which is pretty much what they are at this point.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rob! said...

I can't understand why NBC is treating Leno so well, and sh*ting all over Conan. Is Leno THAT valuable?

Leno is 60 years old--how many more years will he want to do The Tonight Show? And then what do they do, drop in JIMMY FALLON? I simply don't understand this.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Well, I don't suppose there's any chance Conan will take over the Simpsons, is there?

I've always been a Letterman guy. I too am a cranky midwesterner, but I used to be a Leno fan. I saw him live right before the big post-Carson explosion, and he was damn funny. Acerbic, even, as I remember it. But on The Tonight Show, he always seemed to be relentlessly dumbing it down, patronizing his audience--an audience which, the numbers suggest, couldn't get enough of it. THe last few years, every time I see him, he's either sucking up to the Guvernator, or doing 'comedy' on the level of "those clowns in congress! What a bunch of clowns! Amirite, people?"

te said...

"I know Dick Ebersol's importance in the creation of "Saturday Night Live"

Wasn't Ebersole in charge during the Jean Doumanian years? I don't think "creation" would be the precise word.

rob! said...

Dick Ebersol was there at the beginning, hiring Lorne Michaels, and he did have enough brains to fire everyone from the Jean Doumanian group at SNL except Murphy and Piscopo and managed to keep the show going during the dark years. So he deserves credit for all that.

But badmouthing Conan in the NYT is just shitty.

BigTed said...

Any way you look at it, Conan is still scr@wed royally. He finally got the job he's always wanted, at the pinnacle of his profession, only to see it devalued when Leno was put on earlier. Then he was fired from it in the most humiliating possible manner. The only place he could go now is Fox, where he wouldn't get anywhere near the ratings that the "real" networks -- no matter how good he is, he'd go back to being a "cult favorite." And the money might be some consolation, but I imagine he already has more than he could ever use -- $30 million is basically two or three years' salary at that level.

I still say he should do a crazy once-a-week prime time variety show, and spend the rest of his time writing funny movies, or maybe producing sitcoms. (Maybe he could finally come up with one for Andy that actually worked.) But the daily late-night talk-show grind is probably over for him. So it's good that he's trying to get a deal for his staff -- most of them will be looking for work pretty soon.

gottacook said...

I came across the idea earlier today, at a Washington Post online chat with its TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, that "Leno deliberately tanked at 10 p.m. He didn't like the Tonight Show being taken away, so he put on a lethargic prime-time show." She was skeptical and replied that the show likely did represent the best he could do - but maybe there's some truth in this. I could never stand to watch more than 20 seconds of the 10 p.m. show (sampled it 4 or 5 times), and maybe it did become even more mediocre around the time he started telling interviewers that he'd just as soon have remained on the Tonight Show. Whether or not you think he'd be so Machiavellian as to put on a boring, repellent show in an effort to weaken Conan's Tonight Show, he had little to lose by not trying very hard.

That versatile character actor Dan "Arzt" Roebuck could put on the prosthetic chin again and do another fine job if there were a sequel to HBO's version of Bill Carter's "The Late Shift," even though he was and is 13 years younger than Leno.

Oh, and Waxman is certainly to be preferred over Finke.

D. McEwan said...

"rob! said...
Leno is 60 years old--"

Hello! Without wishing in any way to defend Leno, I just have to point out that Jay Leno is 59!

It happens that Jay is almost exactly one month older than I am (and 3 months younger than Ken), so I wish in all possible friendliness to say: "Quit pushing!"

YEKIMI said...

Eventually Jay will go away from the Tonight show. Who's going to be waiting in the wings? NBC has screwed the pooch because there's nobody. The only one I could see would be Craig Ferguson but I think he'd give NBC the big middle finger after the way they treated Conan. Why would anyone want to take a chance with NBC after this debacle? Maybe they have a plan to clone Leno and just keep copies of him going forever. Maybe they just want to destroy the Tonight Show so they can cancel it and just run infomercials in its place instead.

Vermonter17032 said...

I say bring Steve Allen back!

Anita said...

The Kimmel-knocking-Leno bit on Jay's show didn't seem shocking to me. It seemed scripted. Well-played, but not all ad libbed. It felt like at least an outline was in place and they both did it effectively.

Anita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hermite said...

Conan O’Brien puts the Late Show up for sale on Craigslist. Hilarity ensues until the fun-haters take it down.


This is a chance of a lifetime to own your very own late night talk show- guaranteed to last for up to seven months!! Really must see to appreciate.

Information for potential buyers:
-Measures 100′ x 100′ x 32′ – plenty of room for a futon!
-Designed for 11:35 but can be easily moved
-Band can be sold separately
-Buyer must honor Barry Manilow booking next Thursday

MAKE ME YOUR BEST OFFER!!!!!! (Also willing to trade for Coldplay tickets)

Ian said...

Wow, great thread. Am I the only one who thinks that Leno's schtick will be no more watchable at 11:35 than it has been at 10? NBC is betting that his former audience will return, but I think that ship has sailed. I used to give Leno a lot of credit for being a comic for the everyman (and woman) but in recent years he's just been b-a-a-a-d. His banter with Kevin Eubanks is downright painful to watch. Not to be impolitic, but Eubanks doesn't come across as very bright. And yes, Leno's act is so dumbed-down as to have lost any kind of edge (and I don't agree that a show has to be dumb to play in Peoria). O'Brien, had he not been saddled with Leno's awful lead-in, would have eventually built an audience to eclipse anything Leno could have managed to achieve, and Andy Richter is the best second banana ever.

Ian said...

I just wanted to add this: I hope Leno's people - and the NBC brass - are reading these comments.

Unknown said...

Being a Harvard graduate is no guarantee of competence-or even sanity. I have no college degree whatsoever but am attempting to write a film. The film is partially set at Las Encinas psychiatric hospital and the person in question is a Harvard graduate who lost his license to practice psychology after being arrested driving under the influence of drugs (crystal meth) while wearing ladies underwear. So I'm sure given a different career path he may have made a promising NBC television executive (and who knows, might even still be employed!) There's a blog here-the title is Toilet Humour And Ladies Underwear In The Shower/The Asshole Who Killed A Kitten With Drugs that tells the story:

Unknown said...

Hey Ken:

Leno's nice- guy image 'may' take a permanent hit? Are you kidding me?? I've been watching this from abroad, and it's painfully obvious that Leno is all too willing to be the beneficiary of O'Brien's demise. And the weird thing is, he had the money guarantee in place if they cancelled his 10 pm experiment. he REALLY doesn't nee the dough or the platform.

I think this episode is going to stain Leno and follow him forever, no matter what his ratings are. As we say here in England, he 'has form' as a backstabber. His role in this may well become part of his professional persona-- and one he'll have to live with forever.

Having looked at Conan's last few episodes, it's really sad that he's facing this with class and humor while putting out a very funny show. I think a lot of people will look at O'Brien's last week and then measure it to Leno's return and find the latter wanting (which is why I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if NBC tries to get him off the air ASAP in exchange for more money.

Ken, wonder your take on the following:

1. You know the comedic 'community'. WIll Leno have trouble getting big stars (those with the option of turning down publicity gigs) on his show after this?

2. Does this have an impact on the not-yet-completed deal for NBC? Will comcast ask why they should pay the same price when they are inheriting incompetent management, seeing a 60-year old revenue source destroyed and having to face millions in development costs to fill prime time?

3. Anyone remember how hungry Letterman was when he first went to CBS? What do you think he'll do once he faces his blood enemy again at 11.30? Why he might even start working on Fridays...

Unknown said...

To answer a couple of your points:

1. Leno's image is tarnished forever irreprereably.

2. Letterman need not do anything special-he can and always has been able to work circles around Leno. He will, though, because he's a broadcasting and entertainment professional with a deep respect for the industry.

gottacook said...

David's point #2 above: Comcast is buying a controlling interest in a great deal more than just NBC the broadcast network. NBC-Universal's basic-cable TV properties are much more likely to generate profit than the over-the-air network ever will again. That is, NBC-broadcast is a minor aspect of the deal, just as much now as a few weeks ago (before the affiliates saw their latest local-news numbers and revolted, precipitating the fiasco).

Anonymous said...

HOw could Conan "take over" The Simpsons? He doesn't own any piece of the show, didn't create it. He's not likely to go back to being a staff writer on anything.
And as for him as a producer--he's never been a hands-on-producer.

Who would watch a prime time variety show? Conan's audience is younger than that.

Conan and Lorne Michaels had some falling out, along the way, I've heard, which is why Michaels isn't leaping to help him.

And the writers have contracts--it's not like they're all going to selling oranges by the side of the 134.

I don't think audiences care about someone's inside-baseball image.

-bee said...

I think it's probably telling NBC initially wanted to give Leno 1/2 hour in front of Conan - clearly because they see Leno's (opening) monologues as being very important to them.

May I suggest that perhaps all this has a lot more to do with NBC's (i.e, GE & Comcast's) corporate agenda then it is to do with ratings, that perhaps Leno has shown himself to be more 'comfortable' than Conan is in framing the days issues (via the monologue) in ways that better serve the interests of the owners of NBC.

May I suggest that while at one time, the primary agenda of networks was more geared towards catering to the public tastes (i.e, getting better ratings than their competitors), their agenda has now shifted more towards using their dominance of the airwaves to control public opinion (in bad economic times, a soothing corporatist persona's like Leno's can be quite handy)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if there's still a major relevance, but didn't Bill Hicks spell all of this out for us nearly 20 years ago?

Unknown said...

Conan may not be a hands on producer but he would bring invaluable input to the right production (mine I think he would be perfect for) he's clearly very sharp and he knows comedy-everyone on a production team has strengths and weaknesses and a good film is the result of the right creative combination of people exchanging and executing ideas. Conan would be highly respected in any production he lent his name to and all his ideas taken seriously. Like anyone else, including me or any one else that really wants their project to succeed, that doesn't mean every single idea of his would be automatically implemented.

Bob said...

Let me get this straight.

Conan feels he can't afford to wait out a 59 year old pizza eater who rides motorcycles?

Prince Charles called to say "Patience."

k said...

Both O'Brien and Leno stink. I hope O'Brien is done and Leno flames out quickly @ 11.35.

Conan's old show could be funny when the center of attention moved off the host—but that was rare. Mostly he's just slightly less painful to watch than the boil that is Leno.

Jeff said...

After laying low for a few weeks during the Olympics, Conan should be a guest on Letterman on March 1, the day Leno goes back on the Tonight Show. That would guarantee that Leno loses in the ratings his first night back.

blogward said...

It sounds classy, yes, but that makes it sound as if Coco is saying 'Thanks for the $30mil, but what about my staff?' - surely the staff belong to his own production company, for whom he *should* be obliged to provide some sort of severance anyway? They didn't follow him to LA out of blind love. Or do the US do things differently?

Larry said...

Dick Ebersol is Colbert's scheduled guest on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Is Ebersol that dumb, or that smart?

Mary Stella said...

I watched the first night of Leno's 10 p.m. show. I immediately remembered why I'd always chosen to watch Letterman over the Tonight Show after Leno took over.

Oddly enough, the first time I saw Leno perform was as a guest on Letterman. He came out in jeans and a black leather motorcycle jacket and was edgy and funny. He mocked something from TV Guide and made it funny.

I wonder what happened to de-funny him.

Baylink said...

I love "Conan guests on Letterman Leno's first night back" -- and they'd both do it. And not ever mention Leno at all, if they're smart.

But, while I do prefer Conan to Jay, and I think that Conan got jobbed by NBC here from one end to the other, there is one thought running through my mind...

If Conan is so worried about his staff getting paid for the 8 months til he sells a show somewhere... why would he not just be *paying* them? They work for *his* production company, a partner with NBC on the show, no?

It's not like he won't be able to afford them.

And yet no one's called him on that.

Bagneb: a province in Afghanistan known for it's late night television hosts.

Baylink said...

Damnit. Skipped over blogward's comment. Sorry.

Unknown said...

Because the fact that they don't have jobs now is not Conan's fault. He should not have to pick up the tab for employees that would otherwise be employed had NBC not chosen to take such an unprofessional manner in dealing with Conan in the first place. No matter how much money he has.

Also there is absolutely nothing to be gained for anybody (except Jay) by Conan being a guest on Letterman on Leno's first night back-public opinion is running against Jay, you don't kick him when he's down (even though he'd probably do it to you)-Letterman is too professional to pull that stunt first night Leno's back, but for sure he'd love to have Conan at some point soon after that, I would guess. Plus Conan is forbidden from trashing NBC as part of the settlement-in a situation such as appearing on Letterman though he would probably do it with humor in a way he couldn't really be nailed for it. He's smart enough to figure that out himself and he will.

Larry said...

NBC played this wrong every step of the way. 1) Set up a long range plan to force out your biggest moneymaker. 2) Set him up with a new show bound to fail, and that takes out prime time with him. 3) Treat the guy who played ball and who you made promises to in an unbelievably shabby manner.

Maybe Conana's ready for 11:30, maybe not, but give him a chance

Word verification: COSTRATI. People who get their balls cut off together.

blogward said...

"Because the fact that they don't have jobs now is not Conan's fault."

Why were Conan's numbers NBC's fault? (I honestly don't know).

WV: haphiti = orthodox graffiti

Jason said...

@blogward. Conan's numbers were NBC's fault for a bunch of reasons

1) NBC essentially aired the old Tonight Show before Conan's new Tonight Show by having Jay do his show at 10. This screwed Conan big time because a lot of the Tonight Show hardcore audience now didn't have to stay up to watch the Tonight Show, they could watch the Tonight Show they were used to at 10. By the time Conan's show came on those folks were probably comatose and therefore unable to add to Conan's ratings.
Imagine what would have happened if they had Johnny Carson do essentially his Tonight Show except with a different name at 10 when Jay took over the Tonight Show. Jay would have bombed big time. Common sense would dictate that Conan's show would be hurt by this move.

2) By putting on Jay's crappy show that they knew was going to get poor ratings they gave Conan a worse lead in than Jay had. NBC said right form the beginning that they knew Jay's show would get poor ratings but they were ok with that since it cost less to produce. So NBC KNEW that their plan would give Conan a poorer lead in yet still did it.

3) NBC spend as much time advertising for Jay's show as they did Conan, splitting the resources/effort/marketing for a Tonight Show like talk show between two shows (three if you also count Falloon's show). And now instead of having to find enough guests to cover Conan and Fallon's shows they now had to do that for Jay's show as well.

4) Remember all attention NBC gave Jay for getting the interview with Chris Brown? How that was going to be the launching point for success for Jay's show much like how Jay found his audience when he did that Hugh Grant interview? Hmm perhaps if Jay's show wasn't there that interview would have gone to Conan.

5) The whole idea of passing the torch only works if the guy who passed the torch actually leaves. Jay passed the torch to Conan then walked over and said "ok everyone i'm still here keep watching me!"

There is more but I think you get the point..

ArnulfSulfus said...

I like Conan for the same reason I like Ferguson. They're both sincere and honest in what they do and how they do it.

And yeah, I know that every single one of these show has a billion writers and that pretty much everything is scripted and/or rehearsed, but there are moments. Plenty of moments when one can clearly see that this kind of guys were just made for this. With the way how they interview their guests, deliver the jokes, improvise and in the end, make us feel good about being in their company. They define the word HOST.

And I honestly can't say that for Jay Leno. He knows his business and everything, but I never felt that he neither had the guts or the necessary mix of knowledge/charisma/mojo to cross the line from being a performer to being a host.

Anonymous said...

Random Observations of this mess:

O'BRIEN: The bridesmaid who got promoted, only to have the groom wander off with one of the flower girls. Yes, Leno was a miserable lead-in and hasn't been funny in years, but someone with stronger comedic chops could have overcome that. Obviously, though, he does have some personal integrity (it's hard to imagine either of the L-guys worrying much about severance packages for the staffs of their shows). As for the letter he sent to NBC, it wasn't classy so much as amusing in a semi-bitchy sort of way. More amusing, in fact, that anything else he's done--ever.

ZUCKER: This guy survives because although the mother-ship is in severe distress, the satellite operations, such as USA, Bravo, SyFy, and The Weather Channel are doing rather nicely. USA is, in fact, the most successful basic-cable channel in the country, thanks to shows like BURN NOTICE, WHITE COLLAR, PSYCH, and the recently-concluded MONK. Every one of these shows is smart, well-made entertainment. Why they're in basic-cable exile, I will never know, but I'm not a network executive . . .

LETTERMAN: The Rush Limbaugh of late-night, forever flicking towels at people he thinks can't hurt him, but folding up like a passive-aggressive lawn chair if confronted. The whole intern-fiddling thing wasn't much of a surprise, really--not the sort who's brave enough to put the moves on a woman who's his equal or might even have a leg up on him. As for Leno stealing the TONIGHT SHOW from him, all Leno did was go out and campaign for it, while Letterman sat back like a spoiled Dauphin and expected Johnny Carson to hand the gig to him on a silver platter. Open ambition and hustling are undeniably crass, but so is a sense of entitlement.

By the way, if O'Brien's off the TONIGHT SHOW, that means that Andy Richter will be available. Can't they find something for him to do?

len dreary said...

Jay and Dave seem like cheesy old comics who gave up trying years ago. I find them unwatchable.

Conan is in another league. He comes across as less phony and more tuned in to a younger demographic as opposed to the 'Playboy era' vibe of Leno and Letterman.

I hope he doesn't go to Fox. Fox has no credibility.