Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

OK, so maybe I'm biased pro-Conan...

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Seeing as how he's the only late-night host who'd ever be silly enough to put Greg Kot and me on TV, but I thought his final "Tonight Show" was brilliant, and it was fitting that it was dominated by music.

From Neil Young's moving rendition of "Long May You Run" to the Will Ferrell-led sign-off jam on "Free Bird" -- augmented by Billy Gibbons, Beck and Ben Harper -- the music did the talking. What else was left to say? Well, aside from Conan's classy thank-you to NBC(!), just Young's short but true interjection: "Thank you for all you've done for new music."

Hey, Conan, if you get bored during the next seven months, I'm sure we could use some help on "Sound Opinions." Sorry, though: We don't have a slot for Max.

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15 Comments

I completely agree. As far as farewell shows go, this was one for the ages. The goodbye / thank you speech shows a lot of class for a man who has every right to give his soon to be former employer a loud public middle finger. Neil was right. I discovered so much new music through Conan's show. He really did rock and roll justice by giving commercially unknown artists a chance to shine. He will be missed, but I am also excited to see what happens this fall, when he is able to start back up again.

WHEN Conan returns to late night hosting another show, I just can't see Leno being able to compete with him.

Conan is FRESH, FUNNY, and most importantly, ORIGINAL!!! Not since Johnny Carson have I seen a late night host with REAL CLASS.

Leno is BLAND, his humor (If you can call it humor) tired, and WORSE, he STEALS BITS from other comedians. The man is a real stranger to the concept of "class".

Between Conan and Letterman as late night competition, there's just no way "DAMAGED GOODS" like Leno can hang.

It's very possible in the future (Once Conan is back on air.) that aside from the distinction of single-handedly destroying prime time at NBC, Leno will be known as the host that sank the Tonight Show.

(I'm 58 by the way.)

I liked the show and think that Conan showed a lot of class.
That being said . . . after his 17 year successful show he was "promoted" and didn't do very well ratingswise. Because he refused a "reassignment" he was let go and received a very generous severance package (and he generously helped his staff, many of whom relocated from NY).
If I were to work like that (17years + 7months), got fired and received a multi-year's salary as severance, I'd be much happier and not expect _anyone_ to feel sorry for me.

Jay will be fine. Nobody works harder than him. We should all realize that Letterman and Kimmel wanted Conan to remain at 11:35 because he did not dominate the timeslot, not because they were concerned about his well-being.

Who the Hell cares about Jay??? Both of you are missing the point.

My own favorite late night personalities are Craig Ferguson, with David Letterman coming in second.

Both of you are taking a very narrow view and excluding everything else concerning what has transpired over the last couple of weeks.

The fact is Leno act IS tired, old, unfunny, and isn't going to garner the growing audience demographic that NBC will need in the future if it wants to succeed.

Conan, in his last week at NBC, proved he's the guy that can, and NBC fired him.

After taking over the Tonight Show from Carson, it took Jay Leno three years to gain the ratings to beat Letterman. 3 Years.

Now thanks to the NBC train wreck, he's viewed by THE MAJORITY as damaged goods, while Conan has gained respect, a wider audience and a groundswell of support and backing across the nation from fans, media, and celebrities alike...Who the Hell was pulling for Leno??? No one.
Who cares about Jay? No one except NBC.
The game has changed.

Just an update to my last post...The NBC news division ITSELF backs up the points I was making..

An excerpt: "...The dynamic has long been that Leno triumphs in ratings thanks partly to his "Mr. Nice Guy" image, while Letterman wins with critics.

But Leno's image may have been battered in retaking "Tonight" — Letterman has been far from alone in his criticism. Among the many comics to take the side of "Team Conan," ABC's Jimmy Kimmel was perhaps the most ruthless, doing an entire episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in a scathing Leno impression.

And Letterman's ratings have been up recently. The "Late Show" averages about 4.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen figures. That, however, is still less than the 5.3 million nightly viewers "The Jay Leno Show" has averaged at 10 p.m. since its fall debut — about the same number he got as host of "Tonight."

Doug Spero, an associate professor of mass communication at Meredith College in North Carolina and a former TV news director and NBC employee, said the back-and-forth between Leno and Letterman works as both "self-promotion and cross-promotion."

"Letterman has picked up strength," said Spero. "After a certain amount of time, Leno will come back and win slightly. But I don't think he'll ever be as strong as he was."

Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said NBC expects Leno to "be competitive right away." Gaspin said Leno's image isn't hurt much because the situation has been "inside-Hollywood" and that Middle America doesn't "have any clue what's going on behind the scenes."

"We believe Leno will be the late-night leader again," said Gaspin.

Marc Berman, who writes "The Programming Insider" for Media Week Online, questioned Gaspin's prediction.

"The dynamic has changed because now Leno is going in as the underdog," he said. "Leno looks like a laughing stock, so that gives Letterman the upper-hand. I don't assume Leno is going to bring back every viewer he ever had."

As for a Letterman-Leno smack down, Spero said, it reminds him of "the good old days of real competition."

Anyone else having a hard time believing this was written by a professional writer? Check out the lead sentence:

"Seeing as how he's the only late-night host who'd ever be silly enough to put Greg Kot and me on TV, but I thought his final Tonight Show was brilliant, and it was fitting that it was dominated by music."

That writing would be considered unacceptable in most high-school newspapers...

Totally agree Jim. I keep re-watching his final speech and I don't think he could have been classier. Also, I do not think I could have spoken those words had I been in his position.

I saw him when Late Night was in Chicago and he bought pizza for the fans waiting to get into the theatre.

"Um, thanks for playing copy editor,"...Mr. Derogatis, your armchair "copy editor" resorted to questioning your bona fides as a writer and avoided addressing the substance of the content of your article.

In other words, a Leno supporter with nothing to contribute.

Fact is I don't care about choosing sides between Conan and Leno. I've already stated I'm a real fan of Craig Ferguson and David Letterman. My perspective on what happened to Conan and the nature of NBC and Jay Leno is coming from what I saw unfold before my eyes these past few weeks. In that regard I, as do the MAJORITY that watched this circus, hold NBC AND Jay Leno in contempt.

The argument that "It's just business" is a lot of horse puckey. We ALL got to see the behind the scenes maneuvering and read and hear the public statements and threats being made that revealed the base nature of what insipid little minds of questionable character were saying and doing, and how un-business like it all really was. The ONLY person to show any class was Conan O'Brien.

It's all water under the bridge. Old news. Posts on the topic will dry up.

But Conan WILL be back in September, and it'll be interesting to watch the ratings wars take on a new dimension.

OH but I HATE Jay Leno! I understand "hate" is a strong word and I don't use it lightly, but it explains perfectly my feelings for Leno and NBC's recent moves. Only in show business could a situation such as this come about. It actually took me some time to warm to Conan when he made the scene on his original show at 12:30, but he's always been infinitely more entertaining than Leno. Readers should seek out a recent Patton Oswalt interview where he comments on "The Tonight Show Shuffle". He's right on the money when he questions the nature of Leno's ambition since the guy did almost nothing to improve his show or try to move it forward in terms of the nature of its comedy. Leno's always been content with being safe, vanilla, and middle of the road. I wished his prime-time show would fail miserably, but I didn't know that it would mean his return to The Tonight Show. Blecchhh!!! Makes me sick!

all the pro-Conan comments sound like a captive audience preaching to each other.
I've never thought Conan was that good and rarely watched his show in both incarnations. Despite the tempo of this board, my view is apparently the view of the American viewing public in general. Viewers like the show Leno presents in Late Night over both of the elitist-style humor streams presented by Letterman and O'Brien. Of course NBC screwed this up but the fact was that Conan was starting to lose his audience to Ferguson in the 12:30 slot and when he shifted to 11:35, he lost Leno's audience. I think the audience will return because, believe-it-or-not, Leno is considered to be funnier than the other two by most of the people who watch. But it took time for this to develop. Leno was terrible his first two years with the bad set, the bad bandleader and floppy promotions such as the Cheers final episode livecast with a drunken cast. But once he hit his stride with the OJ trial, his show has remained far more extertaining IMO (and, apparently, America's). Once pitted against Letterman, I think Jay will be back in front almost immediately. If Conan returns to the 1135 time slot on a third network, I think his show will be virtually watched by no one. The elitist types his humor favors, as few in overall number they are except amoong tv critics, will already be watching Letterman.

Conan wasn't terribly funny. period. it's nice that Jim & Greg were on the program, but still that didn't help his ratings. it's all about ratings, that's all it's ever been about; who can draw the most in. Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson were all ratings heroes, as is Jay Leno.

@ John
see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD1nwe5Esx0

If the above skits are elitist Leno might as well be doing his show at a country club to entertain the golf widows.

Silly, yes. Elitist, no.

Then again I understand why you're posting this.....NBC needs SOMETHING for their unpaid interns to do.

For anybody who is too young to recall - or maybe just wasn't
particularly interested, at the time - it might help to get some
background on this whole Leno vs Letterman feud. Here's the
full story of how Jay Leno acquired 'The Tonight Show' hosting
gig from Johnny Carson, way back in 1993.
.
http://bit.ly/6FjAQq (complete article - NY Times; 1994)

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