After prepping for five years to host NBC's Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien
finally got his wish in June of last year. But after just half a season
on the job, NBC wants to push O'Brien out
and Jay Leno back in. Why? The network's affiliate stations' ratings
have plunged since September when NBC launched The Jay Leno Show during
prime-time and O'Brien took over the Tonight Show. Since the story
broke, a number of media observers have cast doubt on the new decision.
- They Didn't Give the Current Lineup a Chance! cries The New Yorker's Ken Auletta in an interview on Anderson Cooper 360: "For a network to have put as much effort and promise into moving Leno to 10 o'clock and replacing him with Conan O'Brien, and then after half a season to potentially cancel it, which may also mean cancelling Conan O'Brien -- I mean that's like shooting yourself in the mouth."
- They Might Now Lose Conan or Leno As The Daily Beast's Kim Masters notes, "Fox and ABC would both be delighted to give Leno a late-night show should he make himself available." As for O'Brien, he could find a home at Fox, which "has mulled getting back into the late night game," notes Michael Schneider.
- NBC Will Have a Huge Programming Gap Michael Schneider at Variety says, "In moving Leno back to late night, NBC will suddenly have five hours worth of primetime air to fill. And given that NBC has already scheduled 'Parenthood,' handed back 'Southland' and reduced 'Day One' to a limited run series, its hour-long cupboard is pretty bare this midseason."
- Conan Fans Feel Betrayed Since news of the plan surfaced, Leno-haters and Conan-lovers have raised hell. Joe Windish at The Moderate Voice, shouts "If NBC rewards Leno's colossal failure weeknights at 10 by moving him back to 11:30 -- thereby kicking Conan back to after midnight -- the move deserves to be greeted with a deafening roar." Ernie Smith at Short From Blog says O'Brien getting punished for "Leno's idiocy" is absurd: "Conan O'Brien... won the gig over five years ago, only to see NBC pull the trap door from under him with their Leno antics."