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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Conan

Read his terrific letter and Nikki Finke's fiery defense, from which a few quotes below:
Now NBC is in a no-win situation: it's pissed off Jay. It's pissed off Conan. And the host whom NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker thought would lead NBC's invincible late night franchise into the future has now just publicly embarrassed all the suits by proclaiming, in essence, HELL NO, I WON'T GO!

And frankly, why should he? NBC was on the hook to pay him a penalty fee of $60 million if O'Brien was yanked as host of The Tonight Show. Well, now NBCU bigwigs have done the second worst thing to him and the franchise: they've horribly humuliated him and, as Conan so rightly points out, they plan on permanently damaging The Tonight Show as well by moving it down a half-hour. With the 12:05 AM start, O'Brien's ratings will never recover. I can report that, [...]

So, sure, Conan could leave The Tonight Show and go to a better-run media company for a gig with a less rigid format that's probably better suited to his talent and personality. But why solve NBC's conundrum for it? Or voluntarily forfeit that fat penalty fee? As I've written previously, the Pottery Barn rule is applicable here: "You break it, you buy it." NBC should fork over at the very least. [...]

I'm proud of O'Brien for standing his ground and protecting his own and The Tonight Show's future from NBC's nitwits. There's a rich legacy of that among his predecessors, from Jack Paar through Steve Allen and during Johnny Carson: they all refused to knuckle under to the network. Only Jay Leno didn't. Instead, he begged like a dog for The Tonight Show, and then rolled over and played dead even after Zucker canned him. Then Leno stayed with the network and agreed to a 10 PM show doomed fromn the outset. What a doormat. Obviously, NBCU thought Conan would be just as compliant. I'm thrilled that he's not. Hollywood should be, too, and publicly support him.

Because it's the kind of principled position you don't see anymore from showbiz talent who these days are afraid for their future livelihoods in this downsizing entertainment community and just grateful for a job, any job. As much as Big Media's networks and studios think they call all the shots, and in almost every case they do because they're so rich and powerful, here's one of those rare times when they can't push people around at will.
UPDATE: A simply overwhelming show of support for Conan's letter from the New York Times' readership.

UPDATE #2: Vsriety headline: "Conan to NBC: Drop Dead"

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