Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien both dedicated a significant portion of their shows to the gigantic snafu NBC execs have created by deciding to move Leno back to 11:30 with a half-hour show and bump O’Brien’s “The Tonight Show” to 12:05 a.m.
O’Brien fired away as soon as he hit the stage, opening with “Good evening, everybody. I’m Conan O’Brien, the new host of ‘Last Call with Carson Daly.” What followed were increasingly pointed shots at NBC execs that found their way into nearly every joke on the show.
On the earthquake in Southern California yesterday: “The earthquake was so powerful that it knocked Jay Leno’s show from 10 o’clock to 11:35.”
On hiring a Na’vi – one of the blue-skinned aliens from “Avatar” – to help his “Twilight” vampire assistant: O’Brien: “Yeah, you can even start a half-hour later.” Vampire assistant: “No, I’m getting screwed here.”
On rumors about what the future holds for both hosts: “Jay and I are quitting both of our shows and co-starring in a new buddy drama called ‘Coco and the Chin.” And later in the show O’Brien said he would be “starring in an original Lifetime movie about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship with her network.”
Leno’s jokes were no less venomous and included, “We’re not a show anymore, we’re a collector’s item” “NBC said they wanted drama at 10 – now they got it! I take pride in one thing. I left NBC prime time the same way I found it: A complete disaster.”
Over at CBS, Letterman and Ferguson seemed to be both gleeful and slightly horrified by the disaster unfolding at the competing network.
Letterman’s jokes ranged from his opening salvo (“Well, once again I did not get ‘The Tonight Show.’”) to his take on Leno’s “reasons” for wanting an earlier spot (“Y’know, I’m having trouble staying up this late. Is there any chance you could put me on at 10 p.m.?) to a Top Ten list outlining “Signs There’s Trouble at NBC.”
But Ferguson was the most finely tuned, quipping “This whole mess is a direct result of atrocious management by a once great American network. The networks just do not treat late-night shows with respect. For example, this morning my caviar was supposed to get here at 10 a.m. And it did not get here until 10:05, which completely ruined my massage” and then putting the entire episode in crystal-clear perspective with “What I am saying, I think, is, it is a bunch of middle age white guys arguing over who gets X-million dollars; who gives a f&*$?”
And then, earlier today, O’Brien released a statement that, while pretty damned funny, clearly demonstrated his position on the shakeup.
“People of Earth:
In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over “The Tonight Show” in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004, I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my “Tonight Show” in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the “Tonight Show” to 12:05 to accommodate the “Jay Leno Show” at 11:35. For 60 years, the “Tonight Show” has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the “Tonight Show” into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The “Tonight Show” at 12:05 simply isn’t the “Tonight Show.” Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the “Late Night” show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard, and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of “The Tonight Show.” But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet, a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the “Tonight Show,” I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.
Tuesday, January 12
Bette Midler – “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Jo Koy, Loni Love, Josh Wolf – “Chelsea Lately”
Pitbull – “Lopez Tonight”
Whoopi Goldberg, Findlay Brown – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Rosanne Cash – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Melanie Fiona – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Ringo Starr – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
Paula Poundstone – “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
The Raveonettes – “Last Call with Carson Daly” – rerun
Wednesday, January 13
Joan River – “The View”
Gloriana – “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Jen Kirkman, Dan Levy, John Caparulo – “Chelsea Lately”
The Hotrats – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Riky Gervais, Whitney Cummings – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Aziz Ansari, Larry Gatlin – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Ke$ha – “Late Show with Jimmy Fallon”
Ringo Starr, The Ben Harper Band – “Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
Richard Lewis – “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
Lisa Hannigan – “Last Call with Carson Daly” – rerun
Thursday, January 14
Norah Jones – “Live with Regis and Kelly”
Whitney Cummings, Ross Mathews, Chris Franjola – “Chelsea Lately”
Snoop Dogg – “Lopez Tonight”
The Low Anthem – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Katharine McPhee – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Rosanne Cash – “The Tavis Smiley Show”
Julie Andrews,Vampire Weekend – “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
Pete Yorn – “Last Call with Carson Daly”
Friday, January 15
Emilio Estefan – “The View”
Mark Walhberg, Ricky Gervais – “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Robin Thicke,Jo Koy, Christina Pazsitzky, Guy Branum – “Chelsea Lately
Lifehouse – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Joan Rivers – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
The Hotrats – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Bob Newhart – “The Tavis Smiley Show”
Luke Bryan – “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
Paolo Nutini – “Last Call with Carson Daly” – rerun