Comments from NBC executive Dick Ebersol yesterday have been making the rounds:
Referring to the pointed jokes made this week by Mr. O’Brien and David Letterman of CBS, Mr. Ebersol said it was “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings.”
He added that “what this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan.”
He might have a point. Conan’s ratings were pretty poor. For the first time since Leno’s early tenure in that time slot, other shows were highly competitive against The Tonight Show. Dave regularly beat Conan in the ratings.
Noted. But Dick should tell it like it is. If “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” was a failure, then “The Jay Leno Show” was a disaster. Conan wasn’t the host of the show that was costing affiliates hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
“The Jay Leno” was worse than a mere disaster. “The Jay Leno Show” was a goddamned Chernobyl. It was such a monumental, toxic collapse that after the evacuation of Leno and his staff, the 10 PM timeslot was declared permanently uninhabitable by network talk shows. I can’t imagine anything that Conan could have done during the remaining two and a half years of his “Tonight Show” contract that could have possibly topped that.