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Inside The Wheelhouse: The Late Night TV Debacle

Jay Leno & Conan O'BrienThe late night debacle has been the topic of many in the past week with everyone picking sides between the current Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien and the former/soon to be host of The Tonight Show Jay Leno. With word coming from the extremely reliable it appears that the Late Night debacle will finally be reaching its resting point this week as Conan & NBC have come to terms with his release. A release that will see Conan part ways with The Tonight Show after seven months so Jay Leno can get back behind his desk on the Tonight Show set.

I have waited to write a blog about the entire situation until it finally appeared like it would be ending as it appears right now. Personally I am behind and I guess part of “Team Coco.” Those who are supporting the current Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien. There are many reasons why I’m supporting Conan throughout this entire debacle.

[adinserter block=”1″]First off for NBC to give Conan O’Brien seven month to solidify a new audience is ridiculous. Conan has been with NBC for 17 years taking control of the late night spot that follows the Tonight Show. It’s pretty clear that it was Conan O’Brien’s dream to one day take over the same chair that Johnny Carson once made famous. You’re not in Late Night talk on NBC if that isn’t your dream to one day host the Tonight Show.

And in 2004 NBC announced that it would be Conan O’Brien who would succeed Jay Leno in 2009 as the host of The Tonight Show. That gave NBC five years to develop a reasonable plan for one of the most coveted, if not the most coveted late night talk shows in the entire entertainment business. Five years! It wasn’t like NBC came up to Jay Leno in 2008 and said that in one year you’d be done with The Tonight Show. They knew that this was coming! It was time for a new era in Late Night TV.

Then comes the threat that Jay Leno maybe leaving to another network when his contract expires with NBC in 2009, oh no! We can’t have that! So what does NBC do? Let’s forget about our 10pm programming Monday – Friday to give Jay Leno his own show. We will call it The Jay Leno Show and it will basically be The Tonight Show but with comedians having their own segments, a race track and no desk. It should be a success!

Jay’s ratings tumble, Conan is losing to Letterman and it becomes a red alert in NBC! That’s when NBC decides that it will move Jay to 11:30, push The Tonight Show to 12:05 and everything will be ok! Wrong! Conan refuses to move the acclaimed Tonight Show to a different time slot because it wouldn’t be The Tonight Show…AND HE IS RIGHT! NBC ends up canning Conan O’Brien and brings Jay Leno back to host The Tonight Show.

Well it didn’t take long for everyone to weigh in their opinions including yours truly because so many people can relate to this situation. Because we all have dreams & aspirations in our life and the thought of someone taking our dream away from us in favor of them angers all of us because we can imagine being put into that position. That’s why I feel for Conan O’Brien in this situation.

He wasn’t given a fair shake at hosting The Tonight Show. It took Jay Leno three years and a Hugh Grant confession moment to really get the notoriety it would help build for Leno’s time on the air as host of The Tonight Show. NBC gave Conan O’Brien seven months to build his own brand and get in the swing as host of The Tonight Show.

It’s an unfair & unjust situation and anyone can feel for O’Brien in this situation as it appears he will be on his way after this week. It isn’t like O’Brien is not a popular figure or good at what he does. He is to my generation (I’m 23) the funniest guy on late night television along with guys like Jimmy Kimmel.

[adinserter block=”2″]Conan was supposed to be our generation’s Carson or Leno. It’s sad to the rug be pulled out from under him in one fell swoop. Wherever Conan goes from here he will have some of the largest and loyal fan bases as people can relate to his situation with NBC. This entire debacle has taken Conan to another level as a Late Night host and whatever network he lands will have a very successful show on their hands.

As for The Tonight Show brand, it looks like it has taken two huge black eyes in the last two weeks. Jay Leno is going to have a tough time reigning the younger generation of late night viewers into his show as they are mostly loyal to “Coco.” But what’s the saddest out of this entire situation is that it’s now Jimmy Fallon as the guy 2nd in command at NBC to one day be The Tonight Show host.

When or if that ever happens…god save us!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at and at @ 2am ET/11pm PT

You can visit The Wheelhouse’s official website where you can download “high quality” shows and see all the latest happenings with the show at

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You can follow “The Champ” Jeff Peck on twitter by going to or you can follow Wheelhouse Radio! on Twitter by visiting their page @ You can also e-mail them @

Check out the book The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night



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