Pondering Leno's And Conan's Future
OK, the clock is ticking now on Jay Leno's exit from "The Tonight Show." NBC hiring Jimmy Fallon today to replace Conan O'Brien’s "Late Show" is the first step in the plan announced in 2004 for O'Brien to replace Leno next year.
No transition dates for either were announced by NBC announced, because Leno's future remains unresolved. Last Thursday night he joked in his monologue: "I'm getting inspired by Hillary (Clinton). Maybe I won't leave either!"
NBC wants to keep him someway; ABC, Fox and others want to sign Leno, who’s still the No. 1 late-night TV star. (If he opts to leave, NBC could quickly pull him off the air next year and install Conan.) See our AP story today:
So here are my questions:
--If you’re Jay Leno, what do you do? Stay with NBC? Jump to ABC (going head to head with Letterman and O'Brien?) or to Fox (would he do OK at 11 p.m. on Fox stations against local news?) or a syndication company (it worked for Arsenio, but not for most others)?
--If you’re Conan O'Brien, what do you do? Can you do the same humor at 11:35 p.m. that viewers like at 12:35 a.m.? Or must you change your style and comedy to appeal to the top-rated traditional "Tonight" audience? I think it's a double-edge sword: Remember how some Leno fans criticized him for going soft and changing his act to appease the 11:35 p.m. audience? Is Conan in the same can't-win situation moving to 11:35 p.m.? If he doesn't change, will "Tonight" show ratings drop? If he does change, will he lose his core viewers? It's a sticky situation... which likely will make David Letterman No. 1 again at 11:35 p.m.
If you're Leno and Conan, what do you do?