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Jay Leno -- 'Don't Blame Conan'

1/18/2010 9:59 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Jay LenoJay Leno just finished his monologue tonight where he addressed the Conan O'Brien situation head-on, saying that in 2004 NBC didn't have faith Jay could remain #1 in the ratings.

Jay explained that NBC execs came to him five years ago and told him they wanted to give "The Tonight Show" to Conan because he was getting other offers. When Jay pointed out he was #1 in the ratings, Jay said the exec told him, "We don't think you can maintain that."

Leno said the network guaranteed him two years on the air. He said the network knew he'd get killed during the main TV season, but thought he'd excel against summer re-runs.

Jay said when the network approached him about doing a half-hour show at 11:35 PM, he was hesitant but said getting beat in the ratings humbled him.

He asked the network exec, "Do you think Conan will go for that?" The exec said yes.

Leno repeatedly complemented Conan, calling him a "gentleman" and saying, "Don't blame Conan O'Brien."

At the end of the day, Leno said, neither of them were delivering the ratings they should have been.

272 COMMENTS

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16.

cds    

The best thing Conan and Jay could do is guest on each others show.
This would drive the NBC execs absolutely nuts!!!

1675 days ago
17.

marco    

BTW, how does Conan come off as a rich spoiled brat? By refusing to let NBC push The 60 year old tonight Show into tomorrow morning? Jay was willing to let NBC destroy the legacy of his own x-show for himself to get the 11:35 time back. He doesn't care about The Tonight Show, just Jay...

1675 days ago
18.

whatevah    

Once again, you guys let it slip that a retarded monkey edits your pieces...

It's complimented.

Not complemented.



1675 days ago
19.

kayge    

the argument is Jay has the ability to step down. if he put the legacy of the tonight show above himself, he would do the noble thing and step down. google jays speech from 2004 about this.

1675 days ago
20.

Rob    

Leno is a tremendous dink. The "nice guy" routine has grown stale. People like Rosie O'Donnell, David Letterman and Howard Stern are talking about who Jay Leno really is and pretty much always has been since Johnny Carson's departure.

I've never supported you since you helped orchestrate Letterman's jump to CBS back in '92. Conan's biggest fans are the generation after me and you pulled the same bait and switch on them as well.

Congratulations Jay, you've managed to show your spineless ways to 2 generations of would be fans that will never ever support you. The only fanbase you have left are those getting early-bird specials at Dennys and purchasers of term life insurance from Liberty Mutual.

Enjoy your short-lived grasp at relevance, Jay. Hope it was worth it.

1675 days ago
21.

marco    

I cant say it enough, we need to ALL get together and insist that Zucker and his pals need to go. They have hurt NBC, Conan and Leno with poor decisions.

1675 days ago
22.

jose630    

Leno's playing the 'hurt-puppy' role again, and it seems to be working, unfortunately. The 'Tonight Show' is all this douchebag, has /wants, and, as we've seen, he's relentless in attaining it.

1675 days ago
23.

Maria    

And this is exactly why Leno is the better man and everyone now is becoming aware of this truth. {TMZ's poll number may have jumped because maybe people are totally fed-up with this unfair nonsense pointed toward Leno.} Conan lacks the backbone to take responsibility for his personal failure and people find this a turn-off. I just think all this hoopla is his way of maneuvering people to follow him wherever he goes and boycott Jay Leno.

At this rate, no one will remember and respect Conan as a "Tonight Show" alum. They will remember only this Prissy Fit of his and that will be his legacy.

Would Johnny Carson act like this? There was much tension when Leno took over for Carson, but each exited and entered with a public display of grace and respect toward each other. Carson's seat is going back to the person who has done it the most justice in every way.

1675 days ago
24.

Red    

yeah.....it took him this long to say something nice right after everyone was bashing him for being a douche.
Stupid Leno

1675 days ago
25.

CB    

@linda - why don't you tell us Conan's history of paying-his-dues? I would like to hear job resume. Let's see, two years HBO writer, two years SNL writer, two years, Simpson's writer, host late night show. Not saying he isn't smart, he got what he wanted and he's not funny on a daily basis. BTW, I did go to college, did you?

1675 days ago
26.

stonecold    

Can't stand either one...

1675 days ago
27.

dirty diana    

don't like either.....LONG LIVE CHELSEY!!!!!

1675 days ago
28.

orionsaint    

Let's be real here. No network is delivering the same numbers they were ten years ago. Times have changed. Everyone is on the Internet or playing Online Video Games. Websites are now broadcasting prime time shows. Then you have Bittorrent, not to mention DVRs. The days of TV being the main source of entertainment are long gone.

1675 days ago
29.

Stella    

Hmmm, what is Leno talking about? is he trying to confuse people by saying he does not blame Conan? Conan is not the bad guy. Leno old fart, get your facts straight. Conan is not the back-stabber here, you are.

1675 days ago
30.

Dustin    

Who the hell was blaming Conan?! Nice PR spin to state it that way, Mr. Leno. Everyone was blaming Zucker and yourself, in case you hadn't noticed.

1675 days ago
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