Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Conan O'Brien 'Tonight Show' drama dominated press tour - Sepinwall on TV

Back in Jersey, and I was so exhausted from the end of press tour that I neglected to post my press tour wrap-up column, which talks about how much of press tour was dominated by the still not quite ended Conan/Jay mess.

Gonna be a light posting schedule for the next couple of days, though I did get to see and/or write about a few things (tomorrow's "Friday Night Lights," and "Burn Notice" and "Parks and Recreation" on Thursday) while I was still in LA.


Adam said...

Look: I like Conan, and I know how horribly he's been treated here. But he wasn't Letterman-in-waiting in terms of the quality of show he was prepared to deliver in the main slot, and NBC could have let him go in 2004 without fear of getting killed by competing with him.

If I'm NBC, I let Leno run the show as long as he wants and then pay Ryan Seacrest whatever he wants to take over.

dez said...

Then, many TCA members were off writing follow-up stories about the statement and therefore missed daytime soap legends Agnes Nixon and Susan Lucci performing a 40-year-old scene from Lucci's first season on "All My Children."

Oh, man, I would have loved to have seen that! Do you know what scene it was?

Anonymous said...

A: why didn't NBC do this during sweeps and show them in primetime to juke the stats?

Adam: You'd be setting Seacrest up to fail. He's never been the reason people watch Idol and you'd lose people who have a certain negative perception of Seacrest. I don't think it's about level of recognition (see: Craig Ferguson, Mr. Wick from Drew Carey Show). Heck, they could have the poor man's Seacrest for a lot less (unless Community becomes the new Friends) and I think he'd do a better job.

NBC Execs: You don't want to get into name-calling fight with Letterman. There's a reason he survived the office affair thing and the Palin thing and with better ratings too.

Nicole said...

Letterman has been on fire with all this insanity and I suspect it's therapeutic for him to see Leno finally be exposed for the hypocrite that he is. NBC started this mess, but Leno could have just let the 10 pm show get cancelled (since it was his poor ratings that started this mess) and arrange a development deal for something entirely different. Instead, he forces Conan out, completely forgetting that he said 5 years ago that he would step aside. As Letterman said tonight, you get fired, you get a new gig: you don't wait for someone to drop dead.

There is a clip out there from a Hong Kong or Taiwanese news program that sets out the Late Night War players... it is bizarre yet hilarious.

The Tonight Show is now damaged goods and it's a good thing Carson isn't alive to see how NBC screwed this up. Jay probably has five more years left, maybe less and then Fallon probably takes over. That's quite a drop from Conan.

Craig Ranapia said...

Could we stick a fork in NBC late night, because it's done -- and about as interesting as watching drunks fight in the parking lot of a bar.

Seriously, Alan, does this saga have any actual news value, or is it just that schadenfreude is the emotional equivalent of crystal meth? :)

LDP said...

This week, although he continues to rip NBC, Conan seems to have stopped joking about Leno. I wonder if that's part of his exit agreement?

I'd love to see Conan as Letterman's first guest next Monday.

Matt said...

By all accounts, one of the final issues to be resolved in Conan's severance deal is the length and extent of a non-disparagement agreement. Depending on that, it could limit the motivation for Conan to go on Letterman.

And while Seacrest is a fine ringmaster for a variety/talent type show, he doesn't have the comic chops to do a traditional late night show. (McHale, on the other hand, does, though I think his talents are better served doing something like what he's doing now.)

Finally, reports are that Jay inexplicably is convinced that if he retires, he'll go broke immediately, and certainly isn't interested in leaving TV if he regains the #1 slot.

Adam said...

Jay Leno proves that you don't have to be funny to host a successful show at 11:35 pm. What Seacrest has is likeability and just enough of an edge to be more interesting than you'd think he is.

Karen M said...

What disaster will NBC cook up to entertain us at next summer's TCA?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Seacrest fan in that he's so bland that he's practically nonexistent. However, he seems to know how to pick projects that succeed, he has a lot of name recognition, and he might draw a younger demographic. He was even smart enough to get attached to the New Year's Eve thing so he can be thought of as "the next Dick Clark." I don't think him taking over the Tonight Show is farfetched if Idol is no longer on the air at that point.

dez said...

Depending on that, it could limit the motivation for Conan to go on Letterman.

Unless his sings the disparagement :-) Or he could go on with Ricky Gervais and let Ricky "go mental" and translate for him.

Kimo C. said...

I would like to hear more about how Leno thinks he'll go broke if he retires. Doesn't he have.....like hundreds of millions in the bank? I can't imagine spending a few of those millions a year on cars would put him in the poor house.

paul said...

Leno is paranoid when it comes to money. He showed up at one point in Seinfeld's Comedian documentary and said that he had never touched the money NBC had paid him. He lives off his appearance fees. Seinfeld was incredulous, but Leno said he worries all the time about being fired and that he wants to save his money.

dez said...

Unless Leno invested with Bernie Madoff, he should be fine. And perhaps he should be spending some of that money on meds to cure his paranoia. What a freakshow!

Captcha: "dilisto" = Spanish version of the D-List

Dave T said...

Jay Leno proves that you don't have to be funny to host a successful show at 11:35 pm.

About every other post on every blog asserts "Leno isn't funny" as though it were an objective fact.

It's an opinion, nothing more.

There's a reason it's called a sense of humor.

"Team Coco" thinks jumping around like an idiot, opening and closing the suit coat, and "masturbating bear" suffice for "comedy."

(I actually like Conan and think he's getting screwed -- he deserves more time -- but the pig-piling on Leno has gotten over the top.)

Could we stick a fork in NBC late night, because it's done

No, because they said the same thing about Conan in his first year at 12:30, and he eventually made that show a success.

They said it about Leno in his first year, so much so they were going to offer the show to Letterman at the end of his contract.

Hell, they could have said that about Letterman himself, after his 1980 morning-show failure!

So nothing's ever over.

Instead, he forces Conan out,

Forces? He says they offered him back 11:30. Maybe he's lying. But I don't know. And neither do you.

But let's consider how Letterman got his NBC show in the first place. Did he not "force" Tom Snyder out?!

No one's hands are completely clean here.

Bix said...

Matt, do you have a link for the Leno money paranoia stuff or were you talking about the Seinfeld documentary thing? Either way, it would explain a lot.

Meanwhile, the latest reports are that they've come to some sort of impasse over the severance packages for the crew and the non-disparagement agreement. NBC is blaming Conan for the former and they're not wrong, but they make it sound less complicated than it really is. As far as the non-disparagement agreement, why do they even care? He's already covered a lot of it on their own network.

Bix said...

And now Conan's people are saying the crew issue was settled before everything else and their compensation is "beyond appropriate"


LA said...

I'm seriously enjoying Letterman throughout all of this. He's positively giddy.

I'm not sure I buy the stories that Leno is afraid to spend money. Nope, I don't believe it for a nanosecond.

Tausif Khan said...

Now that Conan is leaving NBC late night does that mean that Carson Daly still keeps his job?

Tausif Khan said...

Also, what will happen to The Wanda Sykes Show on Fox given that they were trying to see if it would be able to compete with weeknight late night competition and that Conan is most likely going to move his show to Fox?

Anonymous said...

@Dave T didn't David Letterman hire Tom Snyder to host The Late Late Show (which Craig Ferguson now hosts) a show which Letterman personally owns?



Anonymous said...

Bix: here is an article re: Jay's money neurosis http://bostonherald.com/track/inside_track/view.bg?articleid=1226338

EssPee said...

Gosh, I just found it nice to know that there was other stuff going on at the death march with cocktails. I mean, seriously, I don't begrudge anyone's fascination with Leno/O'Brien, but a week from now this will all be over and forgotten. The final season of Lost, the (sometime, soon maybe, whenever) airing of Boardwalk Empire, a whole bunch of other stuff about TV that we're all going to get to watch down the road -- that continues.

That said, I have faith that you'll eventually pull yourself back from your news-junkie and herd-mentality fixation and get back to telling us what matters about TV we're actually going to watch.

Seriously -- can I see a show of hands? Who here is actually watching late-night TV regularly? I don't, so I'm a complete voyeur as far as this whole drama is concerned. As much as I like Conan in the abstract -- hey, a former Simpsons writer who has a recurring character named the Masturbating Bear can do no wrong in my eyes -- I don't watch his show. If a funny bit hits, I might catch it on YouTube.

And that's about it. It also suggests that a lot of the attention paid to this drama is misplaced. Look, I know it's irresistible -- any catfight involving real personalities and diffuse corporate entities is going to be something you can't look away from. But it's a symptom of the ongoing death of broadcast TV, and as such it's essentially trivia.

I'm totally of two minds about this, because I've really enjoyed reading about the massive car crash, and I also think it's an incredible distraction from what's really going on in the industry. Yes, you can use it as a metaphor for a while, but the fact is that the audience is shrinking across all networks, and bullshit like what we're seeing at NBC is the natural result of execs trying to cover their asses while everything else comes apart.

I can't help noticing that while NBC is getting pilloried in the ratings that they have some of the best shows on TV at the moment, even if they only appeal to particular niches. Here I'm talking about Parks and Recreation, The Office and Chuck. NBC could be an awesome cable channel. Maybe that's what Comcast has in mind.

Dave T said...

<< didn't David Letterman hire Tom Snyder to host The Late Late Show (which Craig Ferguson now hosts) a show which Letterman personally owns?>>

I guess that means if Leno hires Conan 12 years from now, you'll be OK with this.

dez said...

Also, what will happen to The Wanda Sykes Show on Fox given that they were trying to see if it would be able to compete with weeknight late night competition and that Conan is most likely going to move his show to Fox?

Wanda's show is only on Saturdays. Not sure how it's doing on Saturdays against SNL is an indicator of how it would do on weeknights against Dave & co., but then again, these are TV execs we're talking about.

Allison DeWitt said...

Conan seems to be getting a new life with this controversy. It's on NBC, bottom line. They wanted him to stay, they made the five year deal, they made the idiotic move with Leno.

Leno is a real stone bore to me and has been for a long time. Except his behavior has produced some of the funniest reactions I've seen in years.

Letterman absolutely destroyed Leno last night on the "Don't blame Conan" blather from Leno. And looked like he was having the time of his life.
But on the other hand, I love NBC's comedies. I hope they get some help despite these executives morons.

Mark Russell said...

Am I the only one who thinks that Craig Ferguson comes out of all this looking the best of all the late-night hosts? He seems utterly embarrassed by it all. Of all the late night hosts, I could totally picture him becoming a real institution, just doing what he is doing for years.

Tausif Khan said...

@ Dave T

I don't know where you got the idea that Letterman forced Snyder out of a job. According to the wikipedia entry NBC was changing formats which Snyder did not like and the show was canceled. Then Letterman was brought in.

In terms of The Tonight Show it was well known that Johnny Carson wished that David Letterman would be his successor to the point where he submitted jokes and appeared on Letterman's show while never appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.(http://pqarchiver.nypost.com/nypost/access/781543221.html?dids=781543221:781543221&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Jan+20%2C+2005&author=Post+Wire+Services&pub=New+York+Post&edition=&startpage=102&desc=CARSON+FEEDS+LETTERMAN+LINES)

Tausif Khan said...

@Dave T

Leno is not completely at fault with the O'Brien decision. A corporate decision was made to originally move him. However, he said at the time that he did not want to happen what happened in 1992. However, when his talk show had failed and was canceled. He did not retire (as he has said that he did not want to do a talk show in his 60s). He started arguing to be put back at his old job. This is where I have a problem with Leno. As Jimmy Kimmel said quote Jay from his 2004 resignation all Jay has to do is take care of cars while O'Brien has children. O'Brien and his staff will be fine so I am not too worried. (http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118014097.html?categoryid=14&ref=ra&cs=1)

In terms of their humor. Leno is more of a traditional comedian and I found him funny when I was in high school. O'Brien is an acquired taste. Jimmy Fallon is new and finding his voice but he isn't doing anything interesting although he could not have a better house band in The Roots. Jimmy Kimmel has had the best take on this late night fiasco. Letterman is better insights. Ferguson I like the most as his monologues are off the cuff and interviews organic. So besides Jon Stewart Ferguson is my man.

Tyro.k.y said...

@ Mark Russell

I agree with you. Ferguson is showing a certain level of class. Though, I find it hard to lay blame on Conan. One, I'm a fan. Two, he's the victim.

To the poster complaining about this why contribute at all? Your logic is backwards. You shouldn't have clicked the link to post.

Dave T said...

I don't know where you got the idea that Letterman forced Snyder out of a job.

Tom Snyder repeatedly recounted about having been called in and told "we just signed a deal with Letterman," and he was out.

In the ensuing years, when expressing indifference to the idea that something he was saying could offend someone, he usually dismissed any concern with "What are they gonna do to me? Cancel The Tomorrow Show?"

(Actually, with Johnny’s insistence on creating “Carson Productions” and control of 12:30, he may have had more to do with ousting Snyder.)

it was well known that Johnny Carson wished that David Letterman would be his successor

He's entitled to his opinion, but it wasn't his decision to make.

Letterman probably should have been chosen, with Jay (then, a frequent Letterman guest) installed at 12:30, but NBC was afraid Jay would instead go to CBS for an 11:30 show. Business decisions (and in particular, SHOW business decisions) aren’t always about seniority, and they’re not about who’s paid more “dues.”

The lesson not learned, then or now, is that with 2 hosts and one spot, they're going to lose one of them no matter what they do.

(Leno) started arguing to be put back at his old job.

Did he? There's been a lot of accusations made, but they seem to be based more on assumption than evidence.

He made some rumblings about having been happy at 11:30, and when asked, he did say he wanted to be back at 11:30, but did he actively push for that?

I don't think Jay, with a top-rated show, should ever have been moved out of that slot, but once that happened, NBC owed it to Conan to give him what he reasonably expected: sufficient time, and the benefit of decent lead-ins. While “Jay at 10” may have met NBC's financial goals for that hour, it was having a negative effect on the affiliates and on the rest of lineup. Conan didn’t warrant enough blame as to be fired so quickly.

Tausif Khan said...

@ Dave T

Several critics have noted that Jeff Gaspin said that the compromise between Leno and O'Brien was that what was important to Leno was that he be able to tell jokes at 11:30 and what was important O'Brien was that he be able to host the tonight show. What is most interesting is this: NBC Moves Johnny Carson Starting Time by 5 Minutes (http://www.nytimes.com/1991/05/22/news/nbc-moves-johnny-carson-starting-time-by-5-minutes.html) given O'Brien's acrimony over the Tonight Show move