O'Brien says he won't host 'Tonight Show' following Leno
Conan O'Brien won't host "The Tonight Show" at 12:05 a.m. to make way for a new Jay Leno comedy show, saying he wants nothing to do with the "destruction" of the historic late night program.
"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," O'Brien said in a statement addressed to the "People of Earth" Tuesday.
Last week NBC announced it would move the troubled "The Jay Leno Show" out of its primetime slot, after a disastrous few months at 10 p.m.
Leno will move to 11:35 p.m. in March, moving the "Tonight Show" back 30 minutes. It would also knock Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night" back a half hour as well.
O'Brien became just the fifth person to host "Tonight" in June 2009, after 16 years as the irreverent host of "Late Night."
After taking shots at NBC during his program last week, O'Brien really let loose on Tuesday, saying the network never gave his program a chance.
"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," he said.
He also said moving the show back to 12:05 a.m. would be unfair to Fallon.
"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," O'Brien said.
While there has been speculation about other offers from networks, particularly Fox, O'Brien said there were no other offers and he hoped NBC would work something out with him.
"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," his statement said in closing. "Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way."