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Conan, Jay

Forget the Idea Was Mine

1/17/2010 9:30 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

The man who trashed NBC in the NY Times for the whole Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien fiasco actually helped hatch the whole thing in the first place ... according to an email obtained by TMZ.

Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno
Former TV exec Fred Silverman was quoted this weekend saying the "Tonight Show" shakeup was "a corporate embarrassment" and that moving Leno back to 11:35 PM was a "Mickey Mouse scheme."

But TMZ has obtained an email sent by Silverman in 2008 to two top NBC execs in which Fred seemingly concocts the entire plan of moving Jay to 10:00 PM. He pitches the idea as, "Here's a way to solve your Jay Leno problem, improve your primetime ratings, save untold development costs and make a gazillion dollars at the same time." Did any of those things actually happen?

For all you TV newbies -- Fred Silverman is the only person to have ever been in charge of programming at three different networks. He was a legend at CBS and ABC ... but, ironically enough, failed miserably at NBC with such memorable disasters as "Supertrain" and "Hello, Larry."

It's one thing to play Monday Morning Quarterback, but it's a whole other thing when you called the plays.


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Yes, I don't get the description of young and hip for O'Brien either. 46 is middle aged.

If he wanted to look younger and hipper he should ditch that hairstyle. I saw him in an old interview with ET done in '93. He had a normal hairstyle back then and looked much better with it. Even Jay has changed his hairstyle over the years to match his age.

Conan thinks he needs the crutch of that hairstyle to be funny.

1747 days ago


It's easier to imitate someone with a big chin than someone with a giant head.

Both of their voices are high. Jay is still better looking at 59 than Conan is at 46. And Jay acts like a man.

1747 days ago

Better Than You    

I love Conan, and I felt he deserved his cherished 11:35 time slot.

And I admire him for sticking to his guns.

But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't personally disappointed that he didn't take the 12:05 slot, because now who knows if and when we'll see him again. I need my Conan fix every weeknight, and now I'm not getting it anymore.

I hope the NBC time restriction for him going to another network isn't TOO long. But I'm sure most of 2010 will be Conan-less. And that is killing me.

1747 days ago


Poor leno, the only people who come to his defence are old people.
I predict NBC is going to throw ugly Leno under the bus in 2 years.

1747 days ago


The email is from ? TO "BEN" SILVERMAN who left NBC last year. Several questions come to mind - Are FRED and BEN related? How would "FRED" know about any problem at NBC and then volunteer solutions? Fred Silverman has been gone from NBC since 1981! He did have a past relationship with ZUCKER though didn't he? And he certainly knew Leno, didn't he? CONTEXT TMZ! Secondly, regardless of what anyone suggests, this memo did not make LENO sign on for this "experiment", did it? HUMMM- wonder if that "making Leno the richest man in the history of TV" angle helped make LENO punt any show of loyalty for the THE TONIGHT SHOW brand and respect for his successor Conan O-Brian? Whoever made this suggestion didn't go into DEVELOPMENT specifics,did they? Making sure whatever was developed was in the best interest of the 10 PM slot, the affiliate news slot, and THE TONIGHT SHOW Brand, right? And wouldn't that responsibility be squarely on the backs of NBC executives and LENO? If you read some of the interviews LENO did for his "NEW"show, he said he was bringing the monologue with him, he was bringing his gags, his band, and he saw booking guests as a competition between his new show and THE TONIGHT SHOW - claimed he could use the hook guests could appear on his show in PRIME TIME! (DUH, that would mean that folks wouldn't have to stay up and watch the news and then see some guests, right? Understandable why the affiliates wanted LENO OUT at 10 PM! Also seems clear LENO did not care about the affiliates or THE TONIGHT SHOW when he was developing his new show. Leno also said he saw his show and The Tonight Show with Conan like Oldsmobile and Buick when each company developed different engines. He claimed that was what made GM strong. He doesn't seem to have any respect or gratitude for THE TONIGHT SHOW brand at all. And he clearly forgot how hard it was to establish oneself or just didn't care if he hurt Conan's efforts, did he? And let's remember when Leno took over in the early 1990s there were few fewer competitors than Conan had to battle. Why on earth would LENO think it was OK to be one of those competitors? The rating numbers mentioned in this email seem quanified(total viewership) numbers, not specific under 50 ad revenue golden ratings numbers to me. And the really WOW moment for me as I read this email was WHY would any one currently working at NBC WANT those LOW numbers leading into critical affiliate time slot or just before NBC gets folks for a new THE TONIGHT SHOW? Hope TMZ finds whatever lead up to this email, seem key to me.

1747 days ago


Stella, every generation thinks they're not going to get old but they all do. The baby boomers used to say, "don't trust anyone over 30".

It's really dumb to keep on putting down a group that you will be part of sooner than you expect. You'll be telling younger people how great Conan is and they'll roll their eyes and think you're out of it.

The difference is that older people have already been where you are while your experience is less.

1747 days ago

Better Than You    

Conan may be 46, but his personality and style attracts a younger audience. I started watching Conan around '95, so I was 20 then. I am 34 now, so I've pretty much been a Conan fan for most of my 'adult life'.

There may only be 13 years age difference between Jay and Conan. But they are 13 vastly important, generational divide years.

1747 days ago


"61. The so called 'young/hip' Conan fans, who are actaully in their 40's are all whining. But, it is because hip/young slackers under 30 are on their iPhones, iPods, and laptops texting 'im eating a bagel' or watching YouTube or TMZ Live, instead of Conan at 1130. No ratings = no profit = off the air.

Conan is 46, not 'young' at all. As if he is still 30. Sick of hearing about how 'young' he is supposedly, but he's less then 15 years below Jay and Dave, who is 63!

Most of the Leno bashing is upper class yuppies with entitlement getting hand me downs from 'daddy' [Conan thinking he deserves Tonite Show], hating on working class [Jay worked his way up, no hand outs]"

What an awful, awful post.

No, Conan didn't have the overall viewership Leno did, but he was actually WINNING the target advertising demographic against Dave at 11:30. What you refer to as, in your ridiculously sweeping generalization, the "slacker" demographic. Then why, you ask, are they dumping him? Because the advertising dollar is much stronger and more important at 10pm, and they need to get Leno out and place him somewhere. Leno has more power and wield than any other entertainer at NBC, and if he wants to stay, he stays. Problem is, he completely reversed his mind about this, which is what Conan fans are complaining about.

Yes, Conan (who also worked his way up) was entitled to the Tonight Show. You see, NBC granted it to him in a contract. Don't act like contracts are meaningless.

Lastly, your rant on his age is absurd because the term "young" is relative. 45 is considered young for hosting a network show, just as Obama is considered young at 48 for president.

1747 days ago


Well, I'm one of the baby boomer who has watched both Leno and O'Brien for years so sweeping generalizations don't apply to me. I quit watching Letterman after he went to CBS because he lost his edginess.

I also like Jimmy Fallon who may be Leno's successor in a few years after he hones his skills a bit more. I thought Fallon's Neil Young impression the other night was great. I've never seen anything of that caliber come out of O'Brien.

(I'm one of the people that knows what Harvey is talking about when he tells 70's stories on TMZ Live.)

1747 days ago

Victor Palmeiro    

I am sure NBC's ratings have gone through the roof during this whole fiasco. This has been the best free marketing NBC has received in years. It's almost funny how random this all seems, isn't it?

Victor Palmeiro
Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer

1747 days ago


Why is this story on top now? Put it on another page, it's old news. Don't put "new" news below. Idiots!

1747 days ago


Bottom Line, Conan is a funny person. Jay is not!

1747 days ago


NBC started this whole thing trying to please Conan. First they take The Tonight Show away from Jay and give it to Conan which was stupid because he couldn't even carry the 12:35AM slot because they were afraid of losing him (Which would have not been a great loss). So to appease Conan they give it to him. Now Jay has always had it in 1st place beating out Letterman. So here comes Conan staying in 2nd place next to Letterman (hey can anyone figure out why Letterman doesn't want Jay back) And now Kimmel who is a big no one comes on Jay's show to embarress him but Jay being the gentleman he is just makes Kimmell look stupid. The only way to get The Tonight Show back to #1 is to get Jay back. Whoops there's NBC, Letterman, Kimmel and Conan with egg on there faces.

1747 days ago


"JAY should retire -- otherwise IF he gets 3-mill viewers, he'll be LUCKY."

A 3 would be about a million more than Coco the baby was getting.

1747 days ago


Just wondering to all the Leno fans..If he's so funny, why is he changing time slots again?? His show SHOULD be at the top of the ratings...but of course, his show is TERRIBLE! I doubt he will ever be able to re-create the success he once had at the Tonight Show. He's pissed off to many people.

1747 days ago
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