Conan O’Brien can still bring the heat at his old employer.
The former NBC late-night host mocked his old bosses for scheduling their own town hall with Donald Trump at the same time as ABC’s similar event with Joe Biden.
“I can’t remember the last time I was this shocked by an NBC programming decision,” O’Brien tweeted Thursday morning. The former longtime NBC late-night host of course was referencing his short-lived stint with “The Tonight Show.”
It’s been awhile since the “Tonight Show” drama between O’Brien, NBC and Jay Leno so here’s a brief refresher. O’Brien took over for Leno as host of “The Tonight Show” in 2009, despite Leno not being ready to hang up his mic (O’Brien’s contract stipulated he would get the coveted gig). Rather than head off into the sunset, Leno got his nightly primetime show, “The Jay Leno Show,” that aired at 10 p.m. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” started losing in the ratings to David Letterman on CBS, which caused NBC to consider putting Leno back at 11:30 p.m. and move “Tonight Show” back to air after midnight.
O’Brien balked at changes and ended up leaving “Tonight Show” after only 9 months, eventually landing at TBS. Leno re-took “Tonight Show” for another four years.
NBC News has faced intense criticism from media circles, social media and even inside its own newsroom for its decision to schedule Trump directly opposite ABC’s broadcast with Biden. Despite that, NBC News is forging ahead with Thursday’s event with the president unchanged.
“We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC’s broadcast with Vice President Biden. Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations. We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8pm. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later timeslot we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum. We hope voters will watch both discussions – ours will be available at any time, free and on-demand on YouTube, Peacock and all our digital news platforms,” said Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCU News Group in a statement.
ABC News was surprised by its competitor’s Wednesday announcement, an insider told TheWrap.
I can’t remember the last time I was this shocked by an NBC programming decision.
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) October 15, 2020