Conan O’Brien ends his 16-year run as host of NBC’s Late Night on Friday.
In June, Conan will succeed Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show—long considered the very summit of the profession.
But ever since NBC announced in December that Leno would just move to an earlier time slot—10 PM—people have wondered if Conan’s getting the shaft.
He’ll still be the guy who follows Leno, fighting another host on his own network to get the good guests.
“I feel a little sorry for Conan,” one late night exec told the New York Times. “I think he’s getting sandbagged.”
“Sure, Conan is still getting the ‘Tonight Show,’ but who are we kidding?” says Warren Littlefield, the guy who brought Leno to the “Tonight Show” in 1992. “Call it what you will. But if NBC hasn’t done it yet, you know they are going to at some point be saying: ‘Late night begins at 10 o’clock.’ “
Conan told The Times he spent “an hour and 45 minutes,” stewing over Leno’s move to prime time.
“The 10 p.m. thing, Monday through Friday,” he said. “I don’t think that was something anybody necessarily saw coming.”
But he’s philosophical:
“I took some time before I went to my producer and said: ‘In this scenario I’m still hosting that show that Johnny Carson had that I watched with my father in my living room, right?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you are.’ And I said, ‘Then I’m good.’ “