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Jon Chattman Headshot

Take the High Road, Jay

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It's certainly not Conan O'Brien's fault or Jay Leno's for that matter, but one of them needs to leave and it shouldn't be "Coco." NBC shot themselves in the foot here and is totally to blame for this late night mess. That being said, Leno needs to walk away. The peacock network or "peacock suckers" as I like to call them decided over five years ago to have Conan O'Brien succeed Leno as The Tonight Show host, and have to live with that decision. It appears they're ready to re-neg on that altogether. That 11:35 p.m. Leno pre-Tonight Show concept is certainly not going to work even if it happened. Let's face it. They know it, and it'd only inevitably lead to Leno replacing O'Brien anyway. It's sort of like a homeroom teacher in high school. They serve no purpose except to fill space until the real teacher walks in. Leno at 11:35 p.m. would be meaningless and the network would end up in the same boat they're in anyway.

If Leno wants to save his reputation as a nice guy (well there was that first day on the job where he omitted Carson - thanks Helen Kushnik - but I digress), he needs to cut and run and start anew on a new network. It'd say something of Leno's character if he stood in front of his audience and said boldly "Conan was given The Tonight Show and I knew that going into my 10 p.m. slot. I'm taking the high road and leaving." Unfortunately, it appears he won't and O'Brien is the one who will end up packing his bags. It's a shame since O'Brien and his staffers uprooted to Cali from New York on a network promise. More importantly, it's a bummer because his Tonight Show was/is more fresh and funnier than Leno's Tonight ever was.

In the court of public opinion lately, O'Brien is coming off as a scapegoat, while Leno is coming off as an arrogant star who wants his old show back at any cost. That's all the more reason for Leno to step aside. If NBC thinks Leno can regain form and whup Letterman's ass nightly again once he retakes his Tonight thrown, they're mistaken. Many viewers who fled the Leno-less Tonight have likely gained a greater appreciation for Letterman and the rest of the competition. Second, those same viewers may have been so turned off by the humorless 10 p.m. Leno show that they may be turned off of the host for good. Even more so, it's so apparent that O'Brien would end up on another network which would mean one more competitor for Leno -- some of which Tonight Show viewers who will follow him there. On the flipside, if Leno bolts to another network, he'll get his time slot, money, and universal respect (and viewers no doubt).

In the end, I suspect the ever-so-classy (as evidenced by his heartfelt statement earlier this week) O'Brien will get his walking papers with a boatload of money and that three months from now, he'll resurface on Fox (hopefully followed by a talk show hosted by Ricky Gervais). I just hope if that's the case that he books himself first on Letterman on Leno's first "Tonight Show" taping. Anyone have suggestions for the title of O'Brien's new show?

"Screw NBC with Conan O'Brien?"
"The Almost Tomorrow Show with Conan O'Brien?"
"The 11:35 p.m. Show with Conan O'Brien?"
"Tonight with Conan O'Brien?"
"Before Midnight with Conan O'Brien?"

Suggest yours below...