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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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61.

Yeesh    

Jay should take the high road and leave WITH Conan.

That is, if he does have any integrity.

1676 days ago
62.

Mike Hunt    

Big Jaw is such an effing liar. He's a pathetic loser that can't live without being on TV. Now every normal person in America hates you. What a punk.

1676 days ago
63.

Mike    

So no one can explain how Leno giving up the Tonight Show for COCO and then asking him to slide back a half hour to make room for the guy who allowed him to take over the Tonight show maked Leno the bad guy? ANYONE???? I mean I get the NBC thing! I just don't see how LENO is at fault here! He should have said no 5 years ago and then COCO would have been a NO NO!!

1676 days ago
64.

Hayley    

conan is and forever will be the greatest guy on late night, even if he's never on late night.

the thing i'm most pissed about is nbc trying to snag all the rights to all of conan's stuff.

i say bring back the molecular man.

team conan FTW

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1JC3o-uIbg

1676 days ago
65.

Janis    

I'm not sure this relates but I wanted to say, Jay Leno is appealing. Unlike Sandra Bullock, all the blonds on CNN, and Nancy Grace who I wish would get hit by a truck.

1676 days ago
66.

Maria    

And another thing. All this talk about how Leno was supposed to say no to the 11:35PM slot so that Conan could continue in it is so BOGUS.

In 2004, Jay Leno formally announced he agreed to step aside and pave the way for Conan to take over in 2009. HE KEPT HIS WORD WITHOUT SPITE.

Then NBC offered Leno the 10:00PM spot.

Neither Leno nor Conan did well. Conan had 5-years to prepare a blockbuster hit and apparently his arrogant attitude did him in because he did not do his homework well and it is rumored that he even thumbed his nose at NBC's advice during the past months, as they were trying to save the Tonight Show with him still at its helm. I guess his egoistic sh-t hit the fan.

NBC announces they want Leno back at 11:35PM and give Conan 12:05PM. Where in this scenario does Leno have the obligation to stick up for Conan? HE DOES NOT!!! Why should Jay Leno be obligated to put NBC's back against the wall like that? Jay Leno has a career and a reputation, just like Conan, and NBC has been his employer for a long time. It seems to me Conan is the one with the silver spoon in his mouth and getting away with showing no appreciation for Jay Leno or NBC giving him the Tonight Show chance to begin with. Conan failed and Jay Leno had nothing to do with it.

Leno was then given a ridiculous 1/2 hour show and Conan was given a whole hour of the "Tonight Show" starting at 12:05AM. Jay said "Yes" and Conan said "No". If Conan had said "yes", he would still have the show and Jay would be eating crow with a stupid 1/2 hour.

How the heck in all this do you not blame Conan for the bed he made for himself single-handedly?!?!?!?! No one owes him anything at this point! Let him eat crow!

And if now NBC asks Leno to return to the Tonight Show, he should have as clear a road ahead of him as the one he gave to Conan. Leno owes Conan NOTHING. He gave him more than enough five years ago and more than Conan would ever give him by the looks of it.

Oh, and by the way ~ Could all this flogging of Leno by O'Donnell, Stern and alike be because Leno might be more politically conservative???? I mean you know how Hollywood and liberals operate. Get everyone off the air that is 1mm right of left.

Whether Leno succeeds or fails at the 11:35PM Tonight Show this time around is secondary because either way he will be remembered and respected for his dignified manner in the face of the more baser instincts of others.

1676 days ago
67.

TM    

LISTEN TO THE STATEMENT!!! JAY WAS REFERRING CONAN GETTING THE TONIGHT SHOW GARUNTEE FIVE YEARS AGO. THEY EXECS TOLD HIM DON'T BLAME CONAN FOR THEM TAKING JAY OFF!!!

TMZ JUST HATES JAY AND KEEPS PURPORTING LIES ABOUT HIM!!!

1676 days ago
68.

shirleyfeeney    

Jay, how nice that it took you A FREAKING WEEK to say this. Getting a bit hot in your studio for you?

Bonehead.

1676 days ago
69.

Marissa    

Don't blame Conan!?! For what were we blaming Conan?!? Do you mean to suggest that Conan should've fought harder to keep your insufferable self off the air? Are you bright enough to muster so layered a proposition? Or has your conniving off-air persona melded w/ your on-air bore of a persona?

LENO, WE HATE YOU!!!

1676 days ago
70.

Mike    

If you notice that all of the anti-leno comments are very childish and sound like those made by kids. "Leno suks and he should just die!" but none of them make any logical sense. That maybe why COCO appeals to the teenage masses. They act like someone took away their x-box! State your reason in a logical manner if you can with FACTS and not childish name calling. When you look at it that way it is hard to blame Leno. COCO supports lash out a Leno cause they think he is standing in the way of a Tonight Show they want to see. Conan tried to force this 5 years ago and should have just waited for jay to walk away on his own or gone to another network or even just gave Jay the 30 mins out of RESPECT!!!

1676 days ago
71.

Elgineo    

(Most influential media critic) Tom Shales in the WaPo tonight: "Leno remains disingenuous to an intolerable extreme."

1676 days ago
72.

Rick    

Cut out the past and you still have Jay Leno displaying an utter lack of class by accepting his old job back at Conan's Tonight Show. What a self-serving schmuck.

1676 days ago
73.

Klipper    

He's so full of ****. People are blaming you, Jay. What a moron. No wonder so many of his fellow comedians can't stand him.

1676 days ago
74.

Mike    

The idea that giving Leno 30 mins would be the end of the Tonight show is just stupid and the real reason is he didn't want Jay back. He pressed the Network to give him the show 5 years ago and it blew up in his face. Then when his ratings fell and Jay dropped off the map, the smart thing would have been to team them up and take down letterman. Nope! COCO wanted it all or nothing!! Jay has about 5 years left to go and they could have made a great team. NOPE!! COCO wants it all!!! So, Jay gives up the show to COCO so the network can keep him and he get PROMISED 2 years. COCO now has a chance to payback the man who has helped him countless times. Keeping the tonight show and giving Jay 30 Mins. NO WAY!!! ITS MINE!!! ALL MINE!!!! Yeah...JAY IS THE BAD GUY HERE!!! IDIOTS!!

1676 days ago
75.

Alan C    

So don't blame Jay, don't blame Conan, so who is left Zucker, other NBC brass, ABSOLUTELY! Lets face it - the only loser here is Conan, because he is getting shafted out of The Tonight Show, where Leno was set to retire, even if that was decided that NBC that he would not be able to sustain his numbers in that time slot. All of this reeks of a 'soft-sell' to get people to stop dissing Jay so that when he takes over The Tonight Show again in February after the Olympics, those numbers do not REFLECT the backlash he could be facing or NBC as a whole. This is a nice neat publicity thing to make sure that the feathers get unruffled before it is time for the actual date of his return to late-night television. Just as a sign of solidarity, the poll that TMZ should be asking is will you watch The Tonight Show when Jay takes it back over after the Olypmics? Yes or No? It is quite simple. For my vote: NO!

Sorry Jay, you and NBC literally screwed this thing up tens times to Sunday with the way it has played out in the media. I for one will no longer watch your show as long as you are on it!

1676 days ago
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