On Oprah, Jay Leno Denies Taking Conan's Dream Job
By PopEater Staff Posted Jan 28th 2010 03:55PM
Later in the interview, Leno refused to take blame for taking away Conan's dream. "This is an affiliate decision. Affiliates felt that the ratings were low. This was the first time in the 60-year history of 'The Tonight Show' that 'The Tonight Show' would have lost money. And that's what it comes down to. It's really just a matter of dollars and cents."
Earlier this month, O'Brien walked away from the late-night institution when NBC executives announced that they wanted Leno to once again follow the local news and move O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' to 12:05 a.m. ET. Leno returns to 'The Tonight Show' March 1.
According to Leno, NBC came to him and talked about the ratings, saying Conan and Leno were both down. NBC executives then assured him that he was a "valuable asset" and they were "75 percent sure" Conan would go for the revised plan, which would have had Leno doing a 30-minute show at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Oprah grills Leno about why he didn't consult Conan before agreeing to the new plan. "It wasn't my place to call Conan," Leno said. "They made this offer to me. And I said, 'Do you think Conan will go for this?' And they said, 'We'll ask him tomorrow.' 'OK, let me know what happens.' And the next thingyou know, Conan had his article in the paper and that was that."
Blaming NBC for the late night debacle, Leno adds, "Anything they did would have been better than this... If they had come in and shot everybody. It would have been 'Oh, people were murdered,' but at least it would have been a two-day story. NBC could not have handled it worse."
Jay Leno Snapshots
Jay Leno speaks during the panel for "The Jay Leno Show" at the NBC Universal Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. More Photos >>
Winfrey repeatedly asked why he didn't just retire. Leno says his decision was an "agonizing" one. "Maybe I'm doing something wrong. This many people are angry and upset over a television show... My show got canceled. They weren't happy with the other guy's show. They said, 'We want you to go back,' and I said, 'OK.' And this seemed to make a lot of people really upset. And I go, 'Well, who wouldn't take that job though? Who wouldn't do that?'"
When media reports began turning Leno into the "bad guy" he felt cornered and confused, he told Oprah. "I never expected this to happen. People think you're behind the scenes, pulling strings," he added. "There's no strings to pull. I have a show that's been canceled. So why would I have any power to go, 'Oh, I want ['The Tonight Show']?
Leno admits NBC is all about ratings though. "Well, if you look at where the [O'Brien 'Tonight Show'] ratings were, it was already destructive to the franchise," Leno replied.
Leno also revealed that he hasn't been in touch with O'Brien since. "I haven't talked to him through all this. No. I haven't... it didn't seem appropriate."
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