I know pragmatism isn't as popular as heavy opinionation.. And why should it be... it's nowhere near as fun or good for garnering high-fives from similar-minded people...
But I have yet to hear one good reason why I should actually be pissed at Jay Leno...
Team Conan? Of course I'm on team Conan... how can you not be? At this point it's like rooting for team Haiti if we'd always loved Haiti to begin with. But to say that team Chile is the opposite team--or, in some way responsible for Haiti's earthquake... I guess I'm just not sure I follow. Here's my take on the whole issue:
Did Conan get screwed? Sorta.
Is Jay Leno responsible? No.
Yea, but-- nope.
But Jay Leno's show sucks! So..?
That seems to summarize the conversations I've had with people on this issue. Most people are simply mad because we love Conan and hate Leno. But believe it or not, Leno doesn't run NBC... Leno and Conan both have bosses. Well, had. Those bosses make predictions on what will make their network the most ungodly wealthy. Horrible, horrible predictions. Leno didn't promise Conan to give him the Tonight Show. Sure he made sound bytes for the press, going along with the company's decision, but never was it Leno's idea to give the show to Conan.
The issue that we're getting mad about is getting confused. We're only familiar with two faces--Leno's and Conan's. So it's fun to take sides. In terms of getting "screwed", there are a number of reason why I don't feel particularly bad for Conan...
The only thing he lost was an NBC-owned franchise called The Tonight Show... and he had a contract to protect him so he definitely got cash in hand, per the agreement that was at some point signed by lawyers... Let's be honest, none of us will ever be able to daydream about the amount of money he's currently getting to NOT show up for work. And lets be honest again: none of us ever really cared about the Tonight Show. We just love Conan. Conan still owns the Conan brand (or, WILL own it tentatively in September). Yea we're pissed that we're being deprived of Conan for a while, but lets be honest. The dude's been on TV every night for like 15 years. If we can't live without him for six months, we need to get off facebook immediately. And join twitter. I hope this doesn't get censored.
Lets be honest one last time... In terms of the numbers, Conan was never a perfect fit for the Tonight Show... Folks that watch Leno need a certain glossed-over car-salesman sensibility. They need to unwind their Judeo-Christian concerns with a smiling face who informs them that there's a Dad in Tulsa who mis-spelled "mail" in a PTA newsletter. Leno's the man for the job. He's a skilled comedian who--to borrow a line from Jimmy Dore--knows how to "turn it off" for The Tonight Show. Conan, however, is a genuinely funny person whose sense of humor is conceptual, exploratory, self-depricating, and genuine. It's skill vs. talent. Hosting the Tonight show requires the skill to sell advertising space. Being Conan is a talent that requires being Conan. He's certainly skilled enough to host any of these shows, but the numbers weren't there, because 49 year-old claim adjusters and mothers of seven don't like their routines being interrupted.
If you're really making a huge deal about this situation, it's most likely you're primarily making a big deal about The Tonight Show franchise more-so than Conan himself. It's not like he's never gonna be able to host another show... He very well may end up replacing Letterman someday--a show which, at this point, has a more respectable history than the Tonight Show (even though Letterman's Bill Hicks reparations were kinda cheesey). Or, Conan may end up taking over Chelsey Lately's job. Or Oprah. Hell, he could get a 3 hour block of Adult Swim 9 nights a week. The world is Conan's oyster, and he's currently on vacation, trying to count 33 million new unexpected dollars.
Conan only got "screwed" if you needed him to be the next Tonight Show host. If you honestly don't want to get cable to watch Conan next year, then how are you even reading this? Dial-up?