Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

O’Brien not so lucky

Article by: Ethan Long

Seven months after Conan O’Brien moved his family and his entire staff out to Los Angeles to host NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” he received notice of NBC’s decision to shake up the lineup between the late night shows. was the first to pick up what were then rumors. The rumors started to gain the attention of other news outlets, and viewers on popular social media sites such as and Facebook.

On Jan. 12, O’Brien reacted to the news and confirmed some of the rumors that were flying around the internet in a letter addressed to the “People of Earth.”

“Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move ‘The Tonight Show’ to 12:05 to accommodate ‘The Jay Leno Show’ at 11:35. For 60 years ‘The Tonight Show’ has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying ‘The Tonight Show’ into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. ‘The Tonight Show’ at 12:05 simply isn’t ‘The Tonight Show.’”

Conan O’Brien had been hired by NBC to replace David Letterman, who left the “Late Night” program earlier that year. “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” spent about 15 years on the air. The show eventually gained a large following of young adults. The show, which aired at 12:35 a.m., featured such characters as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and the Masturbating Bear.’

During the fall of 2004, NBC announced that Jay Leno would retire his hosting duties of “The Tonight Show” in 2009. Leno, who had previously snagged the hosting spot from David Letterman, causing a fight between the two comedians and NBC in the early 90s, decided to announce his retirement and successor years ahead so that any chance of a fight would be avoided. As scheduled, “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” debuted on June 1, 2010, the Monday evening following Jay Leno’s sign off

In September, Jay Leno returned to the airwaves hosting “The Jay Leno Show” at 10p.m. The show would receive some of the worst ratings that NBC had ever seen. Affiliates were losing money from the show, and argued with NBC to drop “Leno.” During the same time, Conan was losing the late night battle to David Letterman’s “The Late Show” on CBS, something which only happened to Leno a couple times during his “Tonight Show” run. Since Conan’s former show kept most of its young viewers, many looked to the internet to watch the show. Ratings began to fall early on in the show’s seven-month run. NBC then decided that it would move Leno, pushing “The Tonight Show” to the next morning.

“My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of ‘The Tonight Show.’ But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with ‘The Tonight Show’, I believe nothing could matter more,” O’Brien stated in his letter.

On their late night shows, both Leno and O’Brien took shots at each other. On his Jan. 12 show, O’Brien’s monologue included the following joke.

“Hosting ‘The Tonight Show’ has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me – and I just want to say to the kids out there watch ing: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.”

On the internet, fans of the show mobilized to show Conan their support. Artist Mike Mitchell designed an image of Conan staring sternly, with the text “I’m with COCO” under him. Soon, this image started appearing on news websites as well as being adopted as fan’s Facebook profile pictures.  At the time of this printing, over 773,000 fans have joined the Facebook group “I’m With CoCo” to support Conan.

Bill Zehme, who co-authored an autobiography written by Leno, gave his advice. “The thing Leno should do is walk, period. He’s got everything to lose in terms of public popularity by going back. People will look at him differently. He’ll be viewed as the bad guy.”

On his final shows, Conan seemed racier than ever. During a segment about events in showbiz that lasted less than the time his “Tonight Show” did, Conan gave examples of such things. The final example was “the masturbating bear’s absence from television.” Quickly, the obscene bear ran out on stage. The character, which had been told to stay off of the 11:35 show by the network, was given the go ahead by O’Brien to start showing viewers what it did best.

Robin Williams also appeared on the show, in which he sang and danced to an Irish jig with O’Brien, singing “F**k those bastards who can’t take a joke.” Williams also pretended to urinate on the Los Angeles backdrop behind the set, exclaiming profanity at the executives who allowed O’Brien to be pushed out.

On the final show, Conan addressed the viewers directly, noting that some were still fairly young. His final speech was, “To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is. I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism – for the record it’s my least favorite quality, 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.”

The end of his show included SNL alum Will Ferrell, along with Ben Harper, Beck, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and Conan performing Lynyrd Skynrd’s epic “Freebird.” As Conan soloed on guitar, the credits ran through, until the show was faded out into history.

Conan’s deal with NBC assured him around $32 million, with an additional $12 million for his staff. Although most of the skits and characters introduced during his 20 plus years on NBC are property of the network, O’Brien will be allowed to return to television in September. Rumors have already circulated that Fox has sent memos out to its affiliates about the 11:30 pm spot which is currently used for whatever the affiliates choose.

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” will return after the Winter Olympics finish.

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O’Brien not so lucky