Tag Archives: nbc

More on the Leno Thing: I can’t resist…

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.

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.