Jay Leno Speaks Frankly About Late Night Drama - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Jay Leno Speaks Frankly About Late Night Drama


Jay Leno opens up on his show about what's going on behind the scenes at NBC as executives move to reposition him and Conan O'Brien.

Here's what Jay Leno had to say on "The Jay Leno Show" Monday night.

"Now folks I thought maybe I should address this, at least give you my view of what has been going on here at NBC.

Let's start in 2004. In 2004, I'm sitting in my office, an NBC executive comes in and says to me, listen, Conan O'Brien has gotten offers from other networks, and we don't want him to go, so we're going to give him The Tonight Show. I said well, you know, I've been number one for 12 years. He said 'we know that, but we don't think you can sustain that.' I said, uh, okay, how about until I fall to number two, then you fire me? No, we've made this decision. I said, that's fine, and don't blame Conan O'Brien, nice guy, good family guy, great guy. He and I have talked and not had a problem since then.

That's what managers and people do, they try to get something for their client. I said at the time, okay, I'll retire, just to avoid what happened the last time. (laughter)

So time goes by and we stay number one up until the day we leave. We handed ((applause, no, no)) Okay, but I'm leaving before my contract is out, about 6 or 8 months early. So before I could go anywhere else it would be at least a year or 18 months before I could go and do a show somewhere else.

I said to NBC, would you release me early from my contract? They said no, we want to keep you here. I said well, oh, okay. I said, well, what are your ideas? They said well how about prime time. I said, well that will never work. They said no no, we want to put you on at 10. We have done focus groups, people will love you at 10. Now look at these studies that show Jay's chin at 10, people will go crazy for this. I said well, I don't know, it didn't seem like a good idea.. but I said all right, can I keep my staff? There's 175 people that work here- can I keep my staff? They said yes, you can. Ok, let's try it.

We guarantee you, two years on the air, guaranteed. Now, for the first 4 or 5 months when you're against original shows like CSI, you'll get killed. But in the spring and the summer when the re-runs come, that's when you'll pick up. Okay, great. I agree to that. Four months go by, we don't make it.

Now meanwhile, Conan's show, during the summer, when we were not on, was not doing well, the great hope was that we would help him. Well, we didn't help him any. Ok, so they come and they go listen, this show isn't working. We want to let you go. Can I get out of my contract? They go, no, you're still a valuable asset to the company. How valuable can I be? You've fired me twice. How valuable can I be? ((applause))

So then .. they then say the affiliates are not happy. The affiliates are the ones that own the tv stations. They're the ones that sort of make the decisions. They're not happy with your performance and Conan's not doing well at 11:30. I said what's your idea? They said well look, how about you do a half hour show at 11:30?

Now, where I come from, when your boss gives you a job, and you don't do it well- I think we did a good job here but we didn't get the ratings. Ok, so you get humbled. I said ok, I'm not crazy about doing a half hour, but, ok? What are you going to do with Conan? We'll put him on at midnight or 12:05 he keeps The Tonight Show, does all that, he gets the whole hour, I said, ok. You think Conan will go for that? Yes, yes. (laughter) Almost guaranteed. I said okay, shake hands, that's it. I'm not a , I don't have a manager, I don't have an agent, that's my handshake deal.

Next thing I see Conan has a story in the paper saying he doesn't want to do that. They come back to me and say if he decides to walk and doesn't want to do it do you want the show back? I go sigh, yeah, I'll take the show back (laughter) if that's what he wants to do. This way we can keep all our people working, fine. So that's where we pretty much are. It looks like we might be back at 11:30, I'm not sure, I don't know, I don't know. (applause)

Through all of this Conan O'Brien has been a gentleman. He's a good guy, I have no animosity toward him. This is all business. You know folks, if you don't get the ratings, they take you off the air. I think you know in this town you can do almost anything, if you get ratings they keep you on the air. I wasn't getting the ratings, he wasn't getting the ratings, that was NBC's solution, it didn't work, so- we might have an answer for you tomorrow. So we'll see. But that's basically where it is. "