Monday, May 03, 2010

Conan the Contemplative

One of the terms stipulated in Conan O'Brien's multimillion dollar settlement with NBC was that he couldn't appear on TV until May 1st.  Thus on May 2nd a newly-shaggy Conan sat down with Steve Kroft on CBS' 60 Minutes to discuss for the first time the January events that led to his vacating the Tonight Show desk.  Here's the embed of the segment:

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While O'Brien stepped very gingerly to avoid taking any specific digs at Jay Leno for his role in the whole fiasco, his feelings on Leno sure aren't hard to divine based on this exchange (transcript courtesy of Deadline Hollywood):
STEVE KROFT: I think he-- Leno would say—“Look, I was riding high.  I was number one and   I was still number one when I left and Conan made this deal with NBC and NBC said, 'Okay, Jay, we're  going to take you off the air in five years regardless of whether you're number one or number two or what.'” I think he felt like he was forced out by NBC at a time when he was-- a strong number one and was pushed out the door.  That's his argument.

CONAN O'BRIEN: It's hard for me to get inside his head and argue his side of this whole thing.  I-- I-- here's what I can say.  I'm happy with my decision.  I sleep well at night.  And-- I, you know-- hope he's happy with his decision.

STEVE KROFT: Do you think that Jay lobbied for this?

CONAN O'BRIEN: I don't know.  But-- what I know is what happened which is that he-- went and took that show back.

STEVE KROFT: Do you believe he acted honorably during all of this?

CONAN O'BRIEN: [EXHALES] I don't think I can answer that. I don't think-- I can just tell you maybe how I would have handled it. And I would do it differently.

STEVE KROFT: You wouldn't have come back on The Tonight Show.

CONAN O'BRIEN: If I had surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well-- and then-- I don't-- would not have come back six months later.  But that's me, you know.  Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things.

STEVE KROFT: What would you have done?

CONAN O'BRIEN: Done something else, go someplace else.  I mean, that's just me.
Ouch.  Sure doesn't paint Jay in the best light, and based on his rough reception both during and after Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Dinner (with even President Obama taking some shots), plus the so-so ratings since his return, I'm wondering how much public goodwill Leno burned off during the very-public Tonight Show musical chairs.

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