A few nights ago Jimmy Kimmel impersonated Jay Leno for an entire episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Tonight Kimmel appeared on Leno’s 10 at 10 and launched a few jabs at the former Tonight Show host over rumors that Jay would be replacing Conan O’Brien in the late night spot he gave up only months earlier. Watch the clip, embedded after the jump.
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Update: THR‘s NBC sources are denying the claim, but TMZ has been on top of the good intel on the late night fiasco over the past weeks — so for right now, we don’t know who to believe.
TMZ is now reporting that NBC has signed Jay Leno to a new contract that will give him a 1 hour late night talk show from 11:35pm to 12:35 under the title The Tonight Show. That’s right, looks like Conan O’Brien is out after refusing to move with the Tonight Show to tomorrow, at 12:05 in the morning. With Leno back in his old slot, it appears there is no room for O’Brien on the schedule.
Finke has reported that NBC CEO Jeff Zucker was threatening to “ice” Conan O’Brien, by holding him to a three-and-a-half-year no-compete clause in his contract. Videogum points out that the Internet continues to update Zucker’s Wikipedia page to reflect his “death,” which I find both juvenile, yet funny.
The ongoing drama between Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, and their NBC overlords reached near-soap operatic levels today when Conan issued a public statement that he won’t continue with the Tonight Show if NBC moved it to a 12:05am time slot. We’ve covered the background of this whole fiasco previously, and I consider that required reading to grasp the full extent of these events. Not only was Conan’s response a calm and rational approach to NBC’s landscape-changing decision to move the Jay Leno show to 11:35pm (he apparently spent all night working on it), it also inspired a maelstrom of social media support for the wronged late night host.
Some excerpts from Conan’s release, along with some choice late night commentary on this whole mess, after the break.
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Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2010 by David Chen
[Update: And it’s official. Leno will move back to 11:35 p.m. when the Winter Olympics are over at the end of February. Conan’s fate is still in flux.]
The LATimes has an interesting piece today chronicling the rise and fall of TV executive Jeff Zucker. Just over half a year ago, Zucker’s decision to move Leno into the 10 p.m. slot on NBC was widely regarded as one of the biggest TV bets we’d ever seen. But while Leno might have technically been profitable, NBC clearly failed to take into account their entire TV ecosystem, as Leno completely decimated the ratings of local affiliates. In fact, my local NBC affiliate, WHDH in Boston, almost refused to air Leno outright, but was eventually cowed into submission. Unfortunately, it now looks like they would have been better off striking out on their own.
With rumors that NBC’s entire prime time lineup will be reshuffled, the cost of the entire Leno debacle might end up being quite high. According to the LATimes, “Some veteran TV executives believe the Leno imbroglio could ultimately cost more than $200 million, including the damage inflicted on stations’ local newscasts, their ad rates and NBC programs, such as ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ which lost millions of viewers when its time period was changed. They predicted that it could take years for NBC to rebuild.” (emphasis added) Consider the $200 million number a back-of-the-envelope guess, but I don’t have any problem believing that this whole experiment has been nothing short of a financial disaster.
After the jump, Conan addresses the circulating rumors head on.
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On The Jay Leno Show tonight, Jay Leno made a few jokes, mostly at NBC‘s expense, in response to rumors that the network would be canceling his talk show after a bout of low ratings. While I’m not normally a fan of Leno, as I believe he’s too much of a kiss ass and the definition of “safe” comedy, tonight he was in rare form. You can watch a couple highlights after the jump, or read the transcript below.
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Last night, to the surprise of many, “Pee-wee Herman” began trending on Twitter only a few hours after new account for the character launched on the social network: @peeweeherman (it has just been verified as legit). Earlier this year, Peter posted about a limited engagement at Hollywood’s The Music Box in November marking the official return of Pee-wee Herman (actor Paul Reubens) to his subversive stage roots with The Pee-Wee Herman Show. Tickets have long since sold out. But the first real test regarding relevance, nostalgia, and the bottling of curious man-child magic arrived last night. And what worse place for Pee-wee to giggle coyly and crack abstinence jokes than on The Jay Leno Show? His awkward interview with The Prolonged Chin and a few thoughts after the jump…
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This summer, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve overheard a line like, “Oh, I love Conan, but to be honest, I haven’t been watching [The Tonight Show].” Conan’s ratings, which continue to fall and have been widely scrutinized in the media, reflect this trend. Today, it was announced that The Late Show with David Letterman has bested The Tonight Show for four consecutive weeks, a record dating back to 1995. What I find curious about these aforementioned statements from fans, besides their frequency, is that so often they express guilt. Many 20somethings share a bond with Conan O’Brien incomparable to any late night host, and by not watching, it stings of geek treason. But these lounging confessions also pack a subtle tinge of Nikki Finke-like cutthroat satisfaction, and this is what I find most worrisome in terms of the long haul. Why is this?
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The debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien ended just minutes ago, with Will Ferrell as the sole guest (nice entrance), music by Pearl Jam (good choice for the youngs?), and Andy Richter adding a welcome, if plentiful, laugh track. Also: myriad Choco Taco jokes. The show began with Conan—his red wave on high—introducing a pre-taped segment in which he sprinted in a suit from New York to his new HQ in L.A. on the Universal lot. His soundtrack? Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”
For the most part, Conan played it safe with the transition. There was a bit of his signature hyper-giddiness schtick per the takeover, but no big surprises or real inventiveness. His monologue even contained a flat L.A. Clippers joke that too closely mirrored one (of thousands) that Jay Leno phoned in during his womp-womp send-off last week. (Though Leno’s final monologue tribute to Rodney Dangerfield was respectable.) For me the two highlights tonight were the new set, which looks huge on the tube and incredibly classy in high-def, and knowing that The Chin is finally gone…albeit still on NBC in an earlier slot.
Unlike Ferrell, who proclaimed that Conan’s success was a “crapshoot,” we think he’ll do fine. What did you think? How do you foresee Conan, his hair, Andy and Max doing in the months and years ahead?
Editor’s Note: I’ve included a video of the show’s opening after the jump.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
The NYT has a massive feature on Conan O’Brien taking over the reins of The Tonight Show. We haven’t had a chance to check it out just yet, but it includes the first look above at the set that will appear on millions of TVs (and broken grads’ monitors) for years to come. Conan makes his debut in the NBC slot on June 1st with guest Will Ferrell and musical act Pearl Jam.
First impression: it isn’t straying too far from the iconic, classic days of Johnny Carson or the lesser ones of Leno. Here’s a funny quote from Conan from the feature per the design: “I said, I don’t want a desk made of onyx and baboon skulls.” Let us know what you think below. In addition, am I the only one who thinks it would be a sly move on David Letterman’s part to hire Norm MacDonald as a wing-man to create extra fireworks against Big Red? Norm’s recent guest spot on The Late Show was nearly as badass as his uncensored stint on Howard Stern. Time will tell.
“My face stayed like this permanently. Isn’t it funny?”
As you may have heard, the word is out that Jimmy Fallon, the SNL alum and general entertainment phantasm, will be taking over as host of Conan O’Brien‘s Late Night on NBC in 2009. This will put Fallon head to head with CBS’s “TV’s Craig Ferguson,” who has ascended in the ratings and in the funnay-ness as of late. Does a great Aquaman, too. And of course, Conan takes over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, putting him against one David Letterman.
Unless you’re sponsored by Ambien, I’m sure everyone has an opinion about how this plays out next year. Does Fallon piss you off or is he a quaint guilty pleasure? Will Conan’s “me no talk comfortably with women, hee hee” aging sense of humor play to the Activia-slurpin’ Leno crowd? Does Carson Daly continue to starve himself for no apparent reason? Oh, yeah, and Jimmy Kimmel. Let us know in the comments. Does the Internet rule these shows out completely for your insomniac lifestyle? And no, this isn’t patented Slashfilm fodder, but it’s not a major sign of the apocalypse either. Or is it?
My take: I hate Fallon. He’s friggin’ terrible. I’ve met him twice in person, and he’s just like he is on screen. Smug and distant. Craig Ferguson will pwn the time slot. Conan will bomb like Couric in his new gig. Leno finds a new home and him and Dave continue their non-feud feud. Saw The Late Show live in the Rotten Apple on Monday and it was a strange experience (and subpar show). Being told to clap and laugh over and over while you’re shivering (cliche, but true) and half-way listening to Billy Crystal’s pope jokes was like subtle science fiction. But Letterman’s still the man, as is Chris Elliot and his gut.
Discuss: How will Fallon do? How about Conan vs. Letterman? Why not give one of these time slots from the Land of Predictable Monologues to Paul Scheer and Human Giant? Shake it up…