Coo-Coo for Co Co

January 25, 2010

Conan O’Brien is my hero of the moment. The now-former host of The Tonight Show got the bum end of the stick recently but elected to take the high road in dealing with the blow. His actions speak volumes to the type of person he is, as he remained true to his himself and his values in the process.

In case you missed it: Last Friday night was O’Brien’s last night as host of The Tonight Show after just a mere seven months in the role. A series of events led to the decision, beginning with complaints from local affiliates about programming choices prior to their evening newscasts.  Jay Leno’s show wasn’t attracting viewers to stay tuned in and their evening news ratings were suffering. At the same time, Conan’s show wasn’t performing at the level The Tonight Show was at when Jay had left, causing the suits at NBC to rethink their strategy. Their proposal: Put things back to the way they were when they worked. Unfortunately for all involved, their plan B didn’t go as planned.
Conan had the option to go back to his former spot, but that would’ve meant taking a step back in his career, in addition to bumping Jimmy Fallon out of his spot- neither of which Conan was comfortable with, so he made the tough decision to leave NBC after 20 years with the network.

In my opinion, Jay Leno should have been the one to take the high road. He had his time in the spotlight and should be the one doing the career exploration, not Conan. From the outside, it appears that he’s played a passive role in the whole fiasco, claiming that he has to do this because it’s what NBC wants of him. Who can blame him? He had a good thing going before, his recent gig wasn’t working out, and he could go back to being the big man on campus while getting NBC their number one late night spot back. Easy, right?

I’m not so sure. Given the lack of apparent planning in recent events, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I doubt anyone has really thought through the ramifications of Conan’s departure and Jay’s return, or what will happen Jay’s show doesn’t go back to performing the way it was. Will the outpouring of support from Conan’s fans and the entertainment community alike affect the ratings of the show or perhaps even its ability to get guests as it once would have? We’ll have to wait until March to see.

In the meantime, we can look at the positive outcomes from this whole fiasco. Conan’s profile has been elevated arguably far beyond and faster than what it would have been had he continued on as host of The Tonight Show. He has $30 million plus in the bank, time to figure out what he wants to do next and, if he chooses, can have another show back on the air with another network in just seven months time. It’s safe to say that whatever’s next for Conan will happen his way.