Prior to the Leno vs. O’Brien meltdown, my late-night allegiance was clear to all. Every night I would stop whatever it was I was doing and turn to Comedy Central to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I hadn’t given a second thought to Jay, Conan or anyone else for that matter.
When the Writers’ Strike hit and both Stewart and Colbert were searching for material, they incorporated Conan O’Brien into an absurd late-night feud. I thought it was ingenious how in a time of trouble (and little material), the three banded together were able to keep their ratings strong in the face of trouble. From that point on, I was sure to catch Conan when I could. I followed him as he took over “The Tonight Show,” and as a result, it was impossible to look away as it all fell apart.
Naturally, I wasn’t happy with the situation at all. I thought it was disappointing, but as the ordeal went on, it became clear to me that not only was Conan funny in his own quirky way, he was also a genuinely nice guy. Throughout the ordeal, Conan was quick to point out that there were more important things going on in the world. He made frequent note of the suffering in Haiti, and as his ratings climbed because of the conflict, he put up ads and links to charities to help the country.
I have a very cynical view on pop culture, and I believe that many celebrities too often think of themselves and not of the people around them.
As the details of Conan’s exit deal with NBC were revealed, it became very apparent that he was fighting not for himself, but for his staff that uprooted their families to move to Los Angeles to film the show. No one doubted that Conan would get millions in the deal, but he wasn’t fighting for himself, he was fighting for his staff. That demonstrates not just character, but a kind heart as well.
I think the most tragic part of this fiasco is how the nice guy was the one who got shafted. While Conan is certain to get another deal on another network, it is sad that this had to happen to him. While it is difficult now, he could end up on top in the end. Both Leno and NBC have taken a hit in public eye, and whatever Conan does next is sure to garner viewers.
Even more interesting is what will happen with Jay Leno. He said years ago that he couldn’t see himself hosting “The Tonight Show” past the age of 60. Now with his sixtieth birthday months away, it looks like he’ll be surprising everyone, including himself! It is questionable how much longer Leno will stay on late-night TV, but now all eyes are focusing on Jimmy Fallon, the new host of “Late Night.” Fallon stayed quiet through the ordeal but did offer one gem of wisdom, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned…it’s that hosting this show is a one-way ticket to not hosting ‘The Tonight Show.’”