James Poniewozik at Time:
If the reports are true—and it increasingly looks like it—that NBC is planning to send back Jay Leno to 11:30, it raises a lot of questions: Will Conan stay? What does NBC program in primetime? What about Carson Daly? For this post, I’ll stick to one: Why now?
What’s most surprising about the move—again if reports hold true—is that NBC apparently plans to make the change after the Olympics, in less than two months. (Though nothing is official, and it is still possible this doesn’t happen, on this timetable anyway.) Say what you want about the Leno move, at least the network gave itself nine months to get ready. Changing five solid hours of primetime plus its latenight lineup would be tough enough for a strong network, with high-performing shows to use as lead-ins. You may have noticed that NBC is not a strong network.
Dan Abramson at Huffington Post:
So what the F, NBC? What the EFF? Why must you make such poor decisions? Why? Giving Leno back the 11:30 spot is a big slap in the face to Leno, to Conan, and most of all to everyone who’s watched your network and stuck with you.
I can handle you slapping me in the face. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. I’ll keep telling FOX and CBS that I fell down the stairs.
But please, don’t slap Conan. He doesn’t deserve it. Remember, it was you who deConanified Conan. I’m not just talking about a lack of a masturbating bear. Why does his set look like a day time talk show? Did you borrow a reject powder blue back drop from “The Bonnie Hunt Show?” Nothing against Bonnie (she’s great as the 8th lead in “Jerry Maguire”), but Conan’s old show had such a loose feel, like a late night hang out. His new show feels like I’m meeting him for lunch and I’m checking my watch to see if I have to get back to work
And don’t slap Leno. I know he gives you a big target (chin joke! chin joke!), but lay off the guy. And just so you know, I have nothing against Leno. He may not be my cup of tea, but he seems like a quality guy, and you’re dicking him around. Look at that new haircut. It looks like he went to the barber and said “make me look cool,” but his barber just happened to be John Travolta.
NBC has given Conan O’Brien the option to either do his show from midnight to 1 or leave the network, sources tell TMZ.As TMZ first reported, after the Olympics, Jay Leno will get his 11:30 PM time period back. We’re told network execs have told Conan they will let him decide if he wants the midnight to 1:00 AM time slot. If he does, Leno’s show will only be a half hour. If Conan walks, Leno will get a full hour, informed sources tell TMZ.
Our sources say Conan has not decided what he wants. We do know he’s pissed, because he was given no advanced warning this was coming. Conan’s people told NBC they are considering the offer. Translation: Mr. O’Brien — I have Rupert Murdoch on line one, Stephen McPherson on line two, John Landgraf on line three, Jeff Wachtel on line four …
We’re told if Conan gets another offer, even though NBC could block the move, they will let him go and give Leno the full hour.
Scott Harris at Inside TV:
While Leno is understandably miffed at being removed from ‘The Tonight Show’ while still atop the ratings only to become a network fall guy, it’s O’Brien that is now drawing the short end of the stick. Just five years ago he was considered such a hot property that the network was willing to turn over the reins of one of television’s longest running and most prestigious shows in order to retain his services. Now it appears as though that offer was just smoke and mirrors.
O’Brien’s efforts on ‘The Tonight Show’ have been hampered at every turn. Thanks to the network’s decision to replace their dramatic programming with the ‘Leno’ experiment, he never truly got a fresh start; not only was Leno still his lead-in, exactly as before, but Leno’s expanded presence at the network (including ubiquitous advertising campaigns that far surpassed promotion of O’Brien’s ‘Tonight Show) overshadowed his debut.
Erik Wemple at Washington City Paper:
Back in the glory years, when Leno was killing it as Tonight Show host, I would occasionally volunteer my affection for his show in mixed company. Yes, I enjoyed the monologue. Loved “Headlines” and guffawed at “Bizarre Christmas Gifts.” Here was a show, I’d argue, hosted by a good guy who lived for comedy. Great smile, great jokes, and onstage bonhomie—what more could you ask for?
A lot, if you trusted the opinions of my friends and colleagues. “Oh, vomit,” declared a colleague this past September as I got pumped about the debut of Leno’s 10 p.m. show on NBC.
Vomit indeed captures the intellectual tenor of the Leno v. Rest of the Comedy World debate. A long time ago, I was at a bar with some friends when the topic came up. Someone had remembered that I was a Leno fan and threw that notion-cum-bait into the conversation. Everyone pounced, lighting into me about Chris Rock or Conan or some other killer comic on cable.
By that point, I was used to having to defend this guy, and so I recited my litany. Leno spent ages on the comedy circuit and has the finest, most precise delivery out there. He recovers from a bomb with grace. He has a great rapport with Kev and other Tonight Show crew. He makes me laugh. Plus, it’s all a matter of taste.
And the fact that you have none, came the snark from the table.
And so it’s gone over the years. Each expression of Leno fandom prompts the same mystified rebuttals, with exclamation points landing after the following points: Jay’s not funny. He’s not a good interviewer. He recites the same, tired jokes over and over. He’s still telling Clinton sex jokes. He’s boring.
The Leno attacks, I’ve always figured, are to be expected in and around what I call the District’s gentrification plume—an area populated by what our company’s former CEO would call “urban explorers.” Smart people of refined tastes, urbanites, whatever.
Hence my theory that the hipster demographic hates Jay Leno. All the ingredients for a bad relationship are right on the shelf: Leno is a big, rich white guy who radiates establishment. He has way too many cars. And his brand of entertainment comes via a behemoth broadcast network, so there’s no process of discovery, no in-the-know cachet, to tapping into Leno.
Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:
Me, I shouldn’t talk. I’ve never succumbed to Leno’s seductions. I used to like Conan, but haven’t paid him much attention in the decade since. Still, if NBC rewards Leno’s colossal failure weeknights at 10 by moving him back to 11:30 — thereby kicking Conan back to after midnight — the move deserves to be greeted with a deafening roar.
UPDATE: Conan’s statement at NYT from, of course, Bill Carter
UPDATE #2: Well, here:
UPDATE #3: The Gawker late night wars site
Michelle Cottle at TNR
UPDATE #4: Jonathan V. Last in The Weekly Standard
UPDATE #5: Kim Masters at The Daily Beast