Anyone who’d attempted to wager whether TBS talk show host Conan O’Brien would’ve reached a 20-year milestone at the time of the controversial uproar initially over airing schedule of “The Tonight Show,” would have been hard pressed to find any takers.
But news of O’Brien’s major TV anniversary was overshadowed by a recent biased Muslim tweet the host later removed from his Twitter account, after he came under fire.
The well-publicized brouhaha between original host Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, centering on Leno’s return to the show (after having ceremoniously stepped down) to allow placement of O’Brien as its new host, became enormously convoluted amid outrageous details and much discourse.
Back in 2010, no one could’ve predicted the outcome once the smoke finally cleared in the NBC network’s badly orchestrated game of host swapping and airtime scheduling that resulted from mismanagement by higher ups.
O’Brien, who subsequently made the move to TBS, recently celebrated his two-decade anniversary in nighttime TV. Needless to say, Leno wasn’t invited to mark the occasion.
Jay Leno Reveals Details of Tonight Show Exit Deal
Yes, we can agree that Conan got a raw deal seven months into his contract to host “The Tonight Show,” however there was a hidden back-story. That is, until Leno revealed the specifics of the exit deal gone badly in an interview for the now defunct “Oprah Winfrey Show” at the studio where “The Tonight Show” is taped.
In the one-on-one with Winfrey, Leno alleged he was told to step down from the top-rated late show to make way for O’Brien to take over in order to keep him from jumping ship to another network – which he ended up doing anyway.
SEE: Jay Leno Interview on Oprah Winfrey Show
It was easy for the public to assume Leno had the upper hand at the height of the controversy, given his seniority. Even though Conan garnered a younger audience share, viewers couldn’t have known which way the pendulum would swing.
Leno’s purported insider information put a whole new spin on it. According to him, he had suffered most of the unfortunate fallout, including being parodied and maligned. A measure of blame should have been levied at the top honchos – the geniuses who actually thought a tried and true late night format could possibly work in a 10pm slot. Where were these suits in the midst of the frenzy that ensued at Leno’s expense?
Conan Refuses Later Midnight Time Slot
Did anyone notice the beleaguered original host was also asked to exit seven months early? Leno contends he was only offered his old hosting duties back after O’Brien refused the midnight spot. Leno says he was initially offered to stay on in the 11:35pm half-hour preceding O’Brien on “The Tonight Show.”
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Once O’Brien declined the alternate schedule Leno had already verbally agreed to, and which would have kept O’Brien’s hour-long show intact at 12am, Leno got the show back by default. O’Brien was said to have walked away with a hefty severance payout that by all accounts was enough to tide him over while he licked his wounds.
Sure a deal’s a deal, except when execs take a big gamble that turns into a colossal blunder. Then of course all bets are off, and it’s every man for himself.
Leno should never have been vilified for simply observing the perspective upon which the industry is predicated: ‘That’s show business’.