WTF NBC

First of all, I apologize for no update on Friday. There was so much stuff that happened that I wasn’t even sure where to begin organizing it: a Republican winning in Massachusetts, ridiculous goings-on here at home, it was all just too much all at once. But now that everything is mostly calmed down, we can begin talking about stuff that really matters, namely, the wild stuff happening over at NBC. For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years or so, here’s the basic run-down of what’s been going on:

In 2004, NBC announced that Jay Leno, then host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, was going to be leaving in 2009, and that his successor would be Conan O’Brien, then host of The Late Show with Conan O’Brien. Leno’s last show was 29 May 2009, and Conan took over on 1 June.

All was going fine and dandy, until rumors flew about Leno moving to another network, so NBC gave him the Jay Leno Show, which was to be shown an hour before the Tonight Show. Then, something happened.

It’s at this point that things become a little hazy for me. Some say that Leno was pulling viewers away from Conan’s show, and that’s why ratings tanked. Others say that Leno is a greedy pig, and ratings tanked because no one wanted to deal with him anymore. The report that I had heard that made most sense to me was that Leno’s show was stealing viewers from NBC affiliates and their local news, and that some affiliates were threatening to not carry the Jay Leno Show in order to save their viewers for the local news. Whatever it was that happened, something needed to change.

First, they thought that dropping the Jay Leno Show was a good idea. Then they thought that shorting the Jay Leno Show to only a half-hour was a good idea. Then they thought that pushing the Jay Leno Show back to the old timeslot of 11:35 PM EST, and thus moving the Tonight Show to 12:35 PM EST was a good idea. Finally, they decided on a settlement: Conan O’Brien¬†was paid $45 million dollars to leave the Tonight Show, and Leno would take over as host after the Winter Olympics.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be such a huge deal. I was neither on “Team Leno” or “Team CoCo” (I’m a Stewart/Colbert person myself). But just the fact that this played out on news networks for the whole “drama” confused me. How was this childish saga on Late Night TV newsworthy?

In all honesty, this sort of thing made me think back to the elementary school playground, with Leno being a 4th grade bully, and Conan being a wimpy 3rd grader who was just excited that a 4th grader was actually talking to them. Leno promised Conan a way cool toy called the Tonight Show, and said that he was done with it and Conan could have it. And Conan did have it, and played with it for a couple of months. All of a sudden, Leno decided he wanted his way cool toy back.

And Conan said, “But you said I could have it!”

And Leno said, “But I want it back!”

And Conan said, “But it’s mine now! You can’t have it!”

And Leno said, “Yes-huh, I can have it back.”

And Conan said, “Nu-uh!”

And Leno said, “Yuh-huh!”

And Conan said, “Nu-uh!”

And so on and so forth, until the teacher–Mrs. NBC–came in and said, “Conan, the Tonight Show was Jay’s toy first, so I think it would be nice if you could give it back to him.”

And Conan did, but not before turning to his fellow classmates on the playground and saying, “All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical,” O’Brien said. “I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

Conan is classy. Leno, not so much.

I was a huge fan of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I thought “Headlines” was hilarious, and still do to this day. And I never got a chance to see Conan do his thing on the Tonight Show (though I did hear about the masturbating bear, and have been trying desperately to find a clip of it).¬† But the way I see it, it all came down to greed. Leno was being greedy by staying on the air and nastily competing with Conan like that.

Back in high school, I worked at a radio station, and it was a law that radio personalities, when they left the station, had to wait at least six months before they could get another radio job, so as not to steal a fanbase away from their old radio station (I believe it’s called “Law of Attraction”? Can someone help me out?).

I believe that Leno should have had the same treatment: he should have been out of the limelight and not on any show for the first year of Conan doing the Tonight Show, just so he could get a feel for what he was getting himself into. Then, after that year, Leno could do whatever he wanted to do. Want to join ABC, Leno? Go for it. FOX? No problem. CBS? Have at it. Because after that first year, Conan would have had a strong enough fan-base to handle the sudden competition of what was once a big name in late night.

It’s a shame that we all had to deal with that sort of travesty at NBC. Even though I wasn’t watching, I could hear a lot of my peers talk about, “Did you see what happened on Conan last night? It was hilarious!”

Conan deserves a second chance, and Leno should grow up. That’s really all there is to it.

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One Response to “WTF NBC”

  1. The problem was at the end of 2009, Leno was no longer under any contract from NBC. He would’ve been free to run to any network of his choice, and buried O’Brien in the ratings.
    NBC screwed up, long story short. They should have worked out the contract with Leno to keep him until at least mid-season as a new show, allowing Conan to either succeed or fail on his own. They didn’t, releasing Conan on the Tonight Show over the summer when few people were watching primetime television and launching Leno’s new hour of television in the fall an hour earlier. Leno started strong, but when people realized they were just watching the Leno show an hour earlier, they found more exciting fare. Leno’s show started losing viewers for not only the network, but also for late night programming on several NBC affiliates. I can tell you this from someone who watches nightly news – I’m apt to stay with the station I was last watching for my nightly news broadcast, not because I’m lazy, but because their promos in the program I was watching enticed me to tune in.
    Conan got a good deal out of NBC buying him out of a contract and exited with class, making Leno and the brass at NBC look like the bad guys in the story.

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