More (What…More?!?) on Jay and Conan

I’ve often hypothesized that there’s just something in the Y chromosome that urges men towards Super Bowl football-fan behavior. Something that compels us to invest body and soul into a conflict that we have absolutely no part of, to obsess over stats and trivia, pick a winning team, and wear the team colors.

And when a man defies the statistics and has no interest in football, then that genetic predisposition finds different ways to express itself. The time and passion that men invest in their Super Bowl picks I invest in my Academy Awards picks. The fact that I sat down to blog a little about Jay and Conan and wound up with…

(Cutting and pasting it into my word processor for a word count…)

Holy jumping Zarquon.

Well, it doesn’t matter how long that post was. The point is that I’m here in my Conan O’Brien replica blazer, shirt and tie, with a giant foam-rubber blue card on my hand, shrieking at the screen and enjoying it.

Reading back yesterday’s post, I’ve spotted a problem: I assumed that Leno had a free choice to take the 11:35 slot or decline it. Much of the coverage of Le Scandale reports on NBC’s contractual position with Conan. He has a longterm contract for Late Night, there’s a huge buyout penalty if they cancel him, he’s contractually entitled to be the host of The Tonight Show…but his contract (apparently) has no language mandating that The Tonight Show has to run at 11:35.

The network’s negotiating position (it’s certainly nothing more than a strategy) is that they can simply move his show without breaking their contract and suffering any penalties.

Today I started wondering if there isn’t a similar failure in Jay’s “Leno Show” contract. I imagined that NBC offered Jay his old slot back and he accepted. Is it possible that the sheet of paper they slid across the table to him merely showed the amount of money the network would sue him for if he declined? Does Jay’s contract demand that he continue to do The Jay Leno Show at any time of day that NBC puts it on the schedule?

Maybe Jay thought “I’m not going to go through a year of legal action just to defend my decision to turn down a job I really, really want.”

I dunno. That scenario doesn’t make much sense. As anyone who’s ever hired a home contractor can sadly attest, a contract is only as strong as the participants’ desire to actually stand by their promises.

Hell, I’m sure Conan can tell you all about that. You know a network is in trouble when its behavior can be compared to that of a guy with a pickup truck who spends half a day tearing your kitchen apart and then runs away with your $8,000 deposit.

6 thoughts on “More (What…More?!?) on Jay and Conan

  1. John H.

    It’s an interesting legal point. In any business deal, one should never assume anything beyond what is explicity stated in the contract, be it in English or legalese. Conan’s camp assumed that since the Tonight Show has run immediately after Your Local News for some 60-odd years, that it would always be so. There’s an argument for legal malfeasance if Conan’s lawyers did not request for this to be spelled out in his contract, guaranteeing him the time-slot as well as The Show.

    But as you correctly reminded everyone in the first post, the NBC Weasels had no problem a decade ago making the same promise to two people at the same time, to prevent either one from fleeing to another network. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and NBC has promised (essentially) the same thing to both of their mega-stars, to prevent either one from bolting.

    The Leno 10 pm show was pitched as an “experiment”. Am I to believe that NOT ONE person working for either Leno or NBC had a plan for what would happen when the experiment failed? Because that’s what they often do.

    The only way for Leno to save face at this point would be to move his show to daytime TV, rather than force Jimmy Fallon and Carson Daly into the dawn hours of the next morning. What’s the legal recourse at this point for Fallon and Carson Daly? Not that I care, I’m just asking.

  2. Darryn

    With all this late night television isn’t it best like normal people to snuggle up in bed early and read a great book or read cwob on your iPod. Now there’s a thought.

  3. Distorted Loop

    The only thing that’s clear to me in this whole situation is that the Jay/Conan/NBC triangle has sure brought out the armchair lawyers and know-it-alls who are willing to WILDLY speculate on the behind-the-scenes machinations of the parties with no basis for their speculations beyond an announcement from NBC and the semi-comedic monologues of Jay and Conan.

    What’s also amazing is that it’s clear Conan’s fans are much active in the blogosphere, with them coming out in legion to attack Jay based on the aforementioned speculation, not facts. It’s a clear case of computer geek fanboy-ism run amok. From the TV ratings, Jay is obviously more popular than Conan with the general public, whatever time-slot he’s in. You sure wouldn’t know it from posts like this and the comments that follow.

    Most of these people, like (ahem) our beloved Mr. Ihnatko, admit to not even watching either Jay or Conan before the fiasco; yet they still feel some need to chime in with their attacks on Jay.

    Until the sure-to-come tell-all books come out in the six months or so that have actual facts that went on behind the scenes, the only thing that’s certain is that all this hoopla HAS been good for the ratings of all the hosts on both CBS and NBC. I’ve always watched Jay (just for the monologue), and never bothered with the rest…now I am TiVo-ing Jay, Dave, Jimmy, Conan and even Craig to see who really is more entertaining. (For me, I am certain that Conan isn’t at the top of the list.)

  4. Roger

    I love Jay at 10. Gives me the opportunity to watch David Letterman at 11:35!

    Amazing, I have not heard the names of the individuals at the network responsible for this mess. And no one’s addressed what will go in the 10:00 hole.

    While it seems to be Jay’s fault or Conan’s fault. It’s not. It’s actually some bean counter that collapsed to some affiliates out in the rest of I-don’t-care mid USA. It’s their news shows that can’t make money following Jay. His show is actually profitable for NBC! The scripted shows like CSI etc are very expensive to produce. They won’t go that route. NBC might end up filling that 10 slot with some awful reality show that’s just cheap enough to really kill the viewership. And I think those news shows are STILL going to be in trouble.

  5. gtj

    I agree with your take on the whole fiasco, particularly the idea that the classy thing for Jay to do would be just to walk away. If Jay really feels aggrieved by NBC, Letterman’s advice sounds apt: go across the street, get another show on another network, and punish NBC. Time will tell, but I think Jay has really hurt his ‘brand’ by taking Tonight back from Conan. Dave has never been better than he was Tuesday night, utterly destroying Jay’s attempt to spin the whole mess and paint himself as a victim.

    With regard to your graf about a so-called ‘time-slot’ clause in Jay’s contract for the Jay Leno Show, TMZ reports:
    “Leno’s deal specifically guarantees his 10:00 PM time period, so the network must negotiate a new deal with him before he moves back to 11:35 PM.”

    It’s also widely reported that Leno’s deal promises his production company $150 million from NBC if his show is canceled. So, the Jay Leno Show gets terrible ratings, has affiliates in revolt, hurts the Law & Order franchise, cannot be moved, and is a poison pill to cancel. It’s practically a toxic asset. Giving Conan a $33m buyout is a bargain in comparison. One thing is certain: Jay’s lawyers > NBC.

    PS: As for your word-counts (here and elsewhere), keep ’em up. Brevity is for the weak.

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