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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mark me down for Team Conan

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

Although he is a total screw-ball, I love me some Conan O’Brien.

I find the guy hilarious and he is one of maybe three to four comedians/actors that I can just look at and laugh without him even needing to say anything.

I watched Late Night with Conan O’Brien nightly in college (well DVR’d it nightly, because I was running around doing other things at 12:35 a.m. which may or may not be appropriate to discuss in this blog. I'm going to stick with the "may not" because I'd like to keep my job.)

O’Brien’s sense of humor is right up my alley, it’s off the wall, bizarre, exaggerated and most importantly, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

I was extremely excited back in 2004 when they announced O’brien would be taking over the Tonight Show following the conclusion of Jay Leno’s contract.

To be honest, due to me having to get up in the middle of the night (6 a.m. Yes, contrary to popular belief, there is a 6 a.m.) Monday through Friday to come to work, I haven’t watched the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien as much as I’d like.

I know the ratings aren’t as expected, but in fairness, the show has only been on for seven months. With a new host, a new personality and a complete set of new writers, I’d expect NBC to give Conan some time (and support) to establish viewers.

What NBC is doing right now is completely uncalled for and I stand behind O’Brien who has refused to push the Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m.

O’Brien may be a goofball, but he is actually also a class-act.

On his final Late Night show, he shed tears as he thanked the dozens upon dozens of people who helped him get to where he was and which led him to the Tonight Show gig. He thanked David Letterman for putting him under his wing and he thanked Jay Leno for his continued support.

He thanked fans for putting up with his oddball humor and for coming to understand and appreciate him for who he is.

Throughout his time on Late Night, he constantly gave up-and-coming bands, actors and comedians a shot on his show, even though he could have easily enlisted A-list celebrities as guests. Almost every single night on his show, there was a no-name band performing as the musical guest. Why? Because Conan himself has said, he was in a position to give people a chance to shine, which people like David Letterman did for him when he was young. It was his chance to give back and let others have their moment.

O’Brien’s humor may not appeal to an older generation — a generation who watched Leno’s safe, more dull, sense of humor for nearly two decades — but it's too early to pull the plug on him.

In a statement released on Tuesday, O’Brien said he won’t participate in the movement of the Tonight Show, because it would destroy the show’s legacy. He also talks about how hard he worked throughout his career to sit in that chair.

I don’t blame him.

NBC gave Conan a contract to host the Tonight Show at 11:35 p.m. They should have to honor it.

Below is Conan O’Brien’s full statement:

“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.”



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