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Conan, Take 2: Here's My Opinion Piece for CNN.com
January 13, 2010  | By David Bianculli
After posting my own Conan-Jay blog yesterday on TV WORTH WATCHING, CNN.com called and asked me to do one for them. So I did, and it's been posted.

To read that posting, click HERE. And keep your own opinions coming, too...

Was Conan screwed - and if so, by whom? Is Conan doing the right thing? And will NBC reverse course, or is Jay Leno the "new" Tonight Show host -- again?...




BobInNC said:

"...host Conan O'Brien has protected the 56-year-old tradition of that program. And he's also protected the 48-year-old Conan O'Brien."

Conan is actually 46. The cadence of your phrasing above would actually have been much better (contrasting "fifty-six" in the first sentence with "forty-six" in the second) if you had gotten his age correct.

[Dear Bob: That's actually what i MEANT to type, and precisely because of the 56/46 echo... but I didn't catch my typo, so I'm REALLY glad you did. I just notified CNN, so it should be corrected there shortly. Great catch! And my only defense is that the CNN piece was both written and edited under unusually hectic circumstances. But mea culpa, all the way. -- David B.]

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 11:25 AM

Curtis said:

Conan should take an offer from Fox and go head to head at 11:35 with Jay and Dave. That way while he will be competing with the other late night franchise - Nightline - but he won't be directly up against Jon Stewart or the often hilarious and under the radar Jimmy Kimmel. Has anybody noticed that last night Kimmel did his whole show as Jay Leno? Fake chin, gray hair, lisp. Even the band was doing a direct parody of Kevin Eubanks. It was outstanding!

[Yeah, I watched the whole thing... including Chevy Chase showing up with a Conan wig! -- David B.]

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 12:30 PM

Rich said:

Conan's opening monologue about all this was totally "Take No Prisoners"! and he did it with style and comedic brilliance. An Earthquake in California moved Jay all the way back to 11:35?- Priceless!. His list of 'Options' and choices was hysterical- this was Conan on 'fire' and it reminded me a bit of Letterman in the early 90's.

Conan's full monologue:
Jimmy Kimmel as Jay Leno (opening)

Letterman, Kimmel, Ferguson, Fallon, and Stewart all making comments and goofing on NBC? Chevy Chase giving you digs? I've never seen Late Night so united in chiding 'one of their own'- NBC deserves it.

I've heard another 'theory' that I saw a week or two ago that seems to have actually been 'The Endgame' (if it's True?). Jay is rumored to walk away from NBC cause they're making him look like a bad guy (No!, I thought that already!) and what if Jerry Sinefeld takes his place...as Host of the "Tonight Show". This would've been impossible with both Jay & Conan at NBC...Oh look, there's now an opening- Imagine that.

Perhaps this whole 'debacle' is NBC's way of clearing the path for who they wanted all along?? It's hard to think that NBC would risk 'losing' Leno & Conan without a 'secret Back-Up plan'...unless they plan on giving it to Fallon.

If this is correct it would be the most diabolical manipulation in talk show history.

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 1:29 PM

Lesley2010 said:

David, with all due respect, you're still laying the blame for the failure of "The Jay Leno Show" on Jay Leno. I'm not trying to sound like a broken record, but it was the format not the host. Do you really think Jay Leno personally contacted Ford and made them an offer to advertise their product in a stupid race car segment? Of course he didn't. I do blame Leno for agreeing to shorten his monologue and more importantly for agreeing to step down when he was King of Late Night. Jay Leno is too nice for his own good at times and I for one hope he stays this time and takes back what he never should have given up.

Yes, NBC made Conan an untenable proposition so they could reinstate Leno. O'Brien is the scapegoat for the network's latest woes, but he's not entirely blameless either. He had The Tonight Show for three months before Jay Leno came back. During that time, the ratings spiraled downward.

Like the Phoenix, Leno will rise from NBC's ashes and make The Tonight Show number one again. NBC's ratings will soar and ad revenues will increase. As Letterman said last night, "this is all about money."

[If Jay cared about the quality of the content of his show, he could have vetoed the car-race idea, and many other things. Conan gets the blame for his show not connecting with more viewers; in prime time, Jay gets the same. -- David B.]

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 1:35 PM

Eileen said:

Your piece for CNN was perfect.

Conan is a class act, and will land solidly on his feet.

Jay Leno is a punk, and I never liked his show or his humor. David Letterman is so much smarter and edgier, as witnessed by his piece last night:

Law & Order - Leno Victims Unit.

In the television industry there are two types of talk show hosts: Jay Leno and those who have been victimized by Jay Leno. These are their stories.

Starring: Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon and Ice T as Carson Daly.

Produced by Dick Wolf & Jeff Zucker.

Hey Jay -- that's how smart humor works!!

Letterman must be in his glory, not for the horrific way Conan was treated, but to see both NBC and Leno squirm (if either is capable of squirming).

I think the other late/later night hosts will circle their wagons around Conan in solidarity as they have all seen this unfold so unfairly.

I can't wait to sit back & watch this all unfold. Conan will be fine, probably in a better environment, and NBC/Leno will fail. Who will NBC turn to then?

Somewhere in Los Angeles a Peacock is weeping...

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 2:07 PM

elise said:

First of all, I have heard many commentators say that Conan is now "damaged" goods. I beg to differ. It is Jay that is damaged, either by his own hand or NBC's.... No matter, there.

I find Conan to be principled, at least in his refusal to go to the 12:05 am (the next day) slot. Although I don't know what his contract actually says, was he not hired for the 11:35 timeslot to do the Tonight Show? And if Jay failed to deliver, then the weight of that failure rests on his own shoulders, not Conan's. (No need to discuss the idiocracy of NBC's decisions; quite well done already here, and I totally agree.)

For me, since I was never a Jay fan and not so much a Conan fan either? Not much nevermind for me. Charlie Rose will continue to get my (almost) undivided attention in the 11:30 hour followed by a very amusing, self-deprecating, creative Craig Ferguson.

My late night veiwing has not substantially changed (thankfully!) by this whole, ugly, ridiculous mess!

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 3:02 PM

vince everett said:

My advice to Conan comes in the form of three names...Joan Rivers, Chevy Chase and Arsenio Hall...late night talk shows on Fox don't work..the best strategy when dealing with big companies is to figure out what they "really" want and do the opposite...seems to me NBC wants Conan out...therefore he should agree to stay...half hour Leno is a terrible idea...Conan would be starting just as Letterman gets to the best part of his show (the top 10)agree to do it,watch rating implode (NBC brass get all the blame) and wait for mega-bucks buy-out offer.

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 4:27 PM

Eric Mink said:

Why does this ALWAYS work??? And what incredible writing:


Comment posted on January 13, 2010 4:31 PM

OttoMann said:

The whole fiasco was set in motion five or six years ago. NBC should have just let Conan go then, and kept their boy Leno, since he was doing well in the ratings. Ever since then, NBC has had no way out, and all they've done is kept digging a deeper hole.

As for Conan, the best thing for him -- and it would have been best anyway -- is to go to Fox and have an 11:00 start time, plus be free to be as whacky as he wants. And probably not have the same ratings expectations.

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 6:40 PM

Colleen said:

Conan did the right thing - standing up for himself, his staff, and the program that he inherited. Personally I'd like to see both O'Brien and Leno walk away from NBC, but perhaps that's just the Letterman fan in me. (Is it funny that I was shown The Late Shift recently?)

I wonder if Comedy Central would consider snapping him up. Going by the social-media explosion, there could be a two-hour block that would be the envy of every executive chasing that 18-25 demo.

Comment posted on January 13, 2010 10:51 PM

Danny said:

Is that the Eric Mink that used to write for the NY Daily News? Mink and Bianculli were to writing as Carson and Letterman were to Late Night. Great.

[Yes, that's the same Eric Mink. And every reader who remembers him, and our days together, probably makes it easier for me persuade him to start writing as a tandem team again. Thanks for the joint compliment... but we'd probably fight over which of us is Carson... Call it a tie. - David B.]

Comment posted on January 14, 2010 11:36 AM

TAB said:

Is that the same Eric Mink who brought some unexpected life to a CBS hospitality suite at the Century Plaza hotel by bringing his boombox and a big handful of Motown tapes into a room that immediately lost its mortuary feel?

As I remember, people from an entirely different suite across the hall joined the party -- totally unsettling the CBS stiffs.

If he doesn't join the Bianculli party, at least see if you can borrow the tapes.

Comment posted on January 14, 2010 12:33 PM

Rich said:

@Eric MINK:

Oh Eric!!!- Positively HYSTERICAL!! One of the best MEMES's ever! Who'd have thought Hitler was funnier than Jay.

Comment posted on January 14, 2010 4:14 PM

Eric Mink said:

Danny: Bianculli was definitely the Carson of the team. I was more like Joey Bishop. But thanks for the acknowledgment.

TAB, aka veteran TV critic Tom Brinkmoeller: I think it was the OTHER Eric Mink who caught a whiff of creeping death in the CBS suite and sprayed some Motown to cover the scent.

Comment posted on January 14, 2010 5:11 PM

Tausif Khan said:

I believe Conan will be fine given that Fox has expressed an interest in him. However, at the beginning of the fall season Fox began the Wanda Sykes show to reach a wider audience. Fox started the program on Saturday night to see if it had the strength to go up against Jay Dave and Jimmy Kimmel. With Conan now rumored to be headed to Fox what will happen to the Wanda Sykes program?

[Like Leno and O'Brien, and fellow newbie George Lopez, she's failed to deliver an instantly popular new talk show. So is she expendable? Yes, like everyone else. Even Conan. -- David B.]

Comment posted on January 15, 2010 5:16 PM
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