Conan gets the shaft – again

The news broke on Thursday that the NBC network planned to end the failed experiment of having Jay Leno doing a show at 10 PM weeknights. According to the ratings and the local network affiliates, Leno’s show is failing and hurting the local stations’ late news. Normally what happens is when a TV show is failing the show can get canceled but in this case, NBC may do something that screws their Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien – again.

Let me go back to the beginning.

Four or five years ago Jay Leno indicated he didn’t plan to be the host of the Tonight Show for 30 years like Johnny Carson did. The guy never spent his money from hosting the show, hardly took any time off, and continued to do his stand up act on the weekends and make other appearances. It was claimed at the time that Jay wanted to move on at some point and do other things.

NBC then decided to go ahead and name a new host so as to avoid the awful events of 1992 when Johnny Carson retired from the show and Jay and David Letterman, Johnny’s pick to host, battled for the spot. NBC picked Jay and Letterman bolted to CBS.

The network wanted Conan O’Brien, the host the Late Night show following Jay. It seemed in order to do that NBC had to pick a firm date for the transition to retain O’Brien. It picked 2009.

All was right in the world again.

Then Jay Leno changed his mind. 

Within months after the deal was announced, he started to complain that he didn’t want to leave as host of the Tonight Show. The ratings were decent and he enjoyed doing the show.

NBC was shocked. It now had to do something to keep Jay from going to another network and competing against O’Brien at the 11:35 PM hour. So it hit on the bright idea to give Jay the 10 PM slot weeknights. It would make him happy, the network could save some money by not having to fill the time with expensive programing, and Conan remained host of the Tonight Show. Jay accepted and all was right in the world.

Then the TV viewers spoke.

After the hosting switch and in September when Jay’s new show started ratings went downhill. The affiliates got mad because those poor ratings hurt their local news and Conan’s ratings then got hurt too.

NBC is planning to do something as it spent time on Thursday in meetings with the hosts and staff of both shows. The speculation is that Jay will go back to 11:35 PM for 30 minutes and then the Tonight Show will move to 12:05.

And all is right with the world again…. uh wrong.

Leno’s show sucked. He was off the air for 3 or 4 months – AND had 5 years of planning – to start the new show and all he ended up doing was rearrange the set and put on a new coat of paint. The Jay Leno Show was just the Tonight Show without the name. He added a couple of segments like video of guests driving cars around a track but 90% of his show is all the old stuff he did on the Tonight Show. It looks like he thought the reason the Tonight Show had good ratings was because of him alone. Wrong.

The reason the Tonight Show got good ratings was because it is THE Tonight Show and because Hugh Grant got caught with a hooker. Jay had nothing to do with it. At first Jay had also started a booking war and other behind the scenes problems that led to removing his long time manager as producer. His Tonight Show had been number one in the ratings for that time slot even as it lost viewers as NBC programing in general lost viewers putting the net in 4th place. Had it not been for Hugh Grant and his hooker, Jay might have been replaced as host a long time ago.

So NBC is going to reward Jay for changing his mind and tanking the 10 PM time slot rather than cutting him loose like they should have done when the transition took place last year.

Conan O’Brien, who is the future for their late night show, got the shaft when Jay changed his mind and got the 10 PM slot and now they seem ready to shaft him again by letting Jay come back at 11:35.