Viewers to blame for Tonight Show mayhem

“I’m with CoCo” – it seems you can’t click anywhere these days without seeing the rally cry so many loyal viewers have adopted to show their support for Conan O’Brien.

In case you were living under a rock, this past week the beloved comedian turned down the opportunity to ruin what is, in his mind, the “greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting” by refusing to be a part of the planned time shift of The Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m.

This proposed shift was planned to allow NBC to keep Jay Leno on the network after his prime-time duties didn’t pan out as expected.

O’Brien didn’t budge, got the boot (and $30 million dollars) and beginning in March, Leno will once again be the host of The Tonight Show.

Those of us who are against this malicious coup are attempting to find blame.

Who do we point the finger at for giving our favourite goofy redhead the old heave-ho?

People seem to put onus on Leno. “The Chin” most likely deserves at least a little scorn, as he can’t seem to accept the fact that he might be past his prime.

It seems he is allowing his desire to be on television outweigh his common sense.

But we also have to acknowledge the obvious: NBC executives had a lot to do with the move. The network seems unable to accept the fact that their gamble with The Jay Leno Show didn’t pay off.

They only gave O’Brien an unreasonable seven months to show the same numbers as his predecessor, and then attempted to please the older generation of viewers who preferred the “safer bet” of Leno.

Why they think this move will make them anything better than a fourth place network is beyond me.

Regardless, they carry a portion of the responsibility in this case, and we get to call NBC executives idiots for the thousandth time this year.

Who’s up next? There are still a whole lot of people to blame for O’Brien’s exile, none of whom seem to be getting any mention in the media. In fact, a lot of them are probably reading this article.

You can throw all the blame you want on NBC, The Tonight Show correspondents and even Jay Leno himself, but there has to be some sort of emphasis put on us, the viewers.

I could throw out excuses pertaining to his ratings that are out of our control as viewers: the show premiering in June and having to deal with the very underwhelming summer ratings, competing against David Letterman’s affair scandal or even having a crappy lead-in (regretfully, The Jay Leno Show, followed by the local news).

But the fact is, once O’Brien took over The Tonight Show, it was a pretty welcome change for many fans.

Leno never really possessed that “young person” kind of funny, so his replacement “CoCo” was refreshing.

We, as an audience of young adults, threw our arms wide open and embraced him (or at least, we were supposed to).

I’m willing to bet that over half of the people throwing up “I’m With CoCo” logos in their Facebook pictures rarely, if ever, tuned in to watch Conan O’Brien host The Tonight Show on a regular basis.

How do I know this? Ratings don’t lie. He inherited a show that consistently spanked the competition on other networks and brought it down to number three.

Was it because he wasn’t funny? Kind of – it’s hard to be funny when there’s no one tuning in to laugh.

The idea of ousting Conan as host isn’t the ideal situation for a lot of us, but he wasn’t bringing in the numbers, and that is mostly on us. You can like him all you want, but if you didn’t watch his show, you are part of the reason it got cancelled.

In the grand scheme of things, NBC ended the problem that started with us. Be “with CoCo” all you want, but the question is, why weren’t you with him before?

A brief history of late-night television

The late-night division
Johnny Carson announced his retirement in 1992 as The Tonight Show’s host. David Letterman, who hosted Late Night, left NBC. Letterman was expected to take over the show. The surprising choice of newcomer Jay Leno is considered the source of a late-night war between Leno and Letterman. After 1995, Leno steadily did better than Letterman’s show until 2009, but the tides turned when Leno moved to an NBC prime-time spot with The Jay Leno Show.

The shift
The job of Tonight Show host went to comedian Conan O’Brien. Leno’s ratings dipped.

Things get weird
In January, NBC proposed moving O’Brien’s show to 12:05 a.m. so that Leno could once again occupy the desired 11:35 p.m. time slot. O’Brien refused, releasing a statement that he would no longer continue at the show if he was bumped. NBC and O’Brien are currently negotiating a settlement.