Jay Leno says farewell – again – to the Tonight Show desk on February 6, just four years after returning to the NBC show after the network booted him in favor of Conan O’Brien. “First time, I got blindsided,” Leno told 60 Minutes in an exit interview airing Sunday. The network gave him notice in 2004 that he’d be out after another four years. “‘You’re fired four years from right now,’” he recalled being told. “I said, ‘Sure.’ I said at the time I was going to do a half hour. And I believe Conan was going to follow later. He didn’t want to do that. He quit. And so they gave me the show back.” After a disastrous run on primetime in 2009 with The Jay Leno Show, NBC gave Leno back the Tonight Show chair. Last April they announced they were ousting Leno again in favor of the younger Jimmy Fallon. “It’s not my decision,” said Leno. “And I think I probably would have stayed if we didn’t have… an extremely qualified, young guy ready to jump in. If they said, ‘Look, you’re fired. We don’t know who we’re going to get. We don’t know what we’re going to put in there. But anybody but you, we just want you out of–’ I would be hurt and offended. But this makes perfect sense to me. I understand this.”
An old Conan promo that simulated the nails-on-chalkboard sounds of the Emergency Alert System looks have cost TBS $25,000. The Federal Communications Commission this week alerted TBS it is slapping the cable network with a fine in that amount over a 2012 Conan promo it telecast that used the well-known sounds intended to warn viewers of national emergencies.
The FCC — the government agency charged with fining those who misuse the distinctive EAS sounds — has given Turner notice of the fine for “the transmission of false distress signals,” unless it can dissuade the commission within 30 days.
The FCC this past February launched an investigation into a viewer complaint about a 2012 promo for TBS’s Conan O’Brien late-night show. Turner admitted, the FCC said, that it produced and distributed a promotion, for use prior to April 26, 2012, that included a “sound effect” in part derived from an online source, which the network insisted was not part of the actual EAS code, but did include a prerecorded “sound burst” followed by a “bars and tone” sound. Turner “admits that the promotion was not made in connection with an actual national, state or local emergency or authorized test of the EAS,” the FCC said. Turner also argued the promo was produced within such a “tight timeframe” that the production team never submitted it for S&P review. Since May of ’12, all promos for Conan’s show have undergone S&P scrutiny, TBS pledged, according to the FCC.
Turner declined comment on Wednesday.
Super Fun Night, originally conceived as a multi-cam sitcom for CBS for the 2012-13 TV season, is much better suited as a single-cam on ABC one season later, exec producer Conan O’Brien insisted this afternoon at Summer TV Press Tour 2013. Yes, CBS has maybe the best comedy-hit-per-season records in the business, but single-cam is the best way to showcase star Rebel Wilson’s talents, like “vulnerability,” “range,” and all those “little faces” you’ve seen her do in her feature film work (Wilson’s maybe best known for playing Brynn in Bridesmaids). Plus, single cam is better for improv, said Wilson, who estimates she averages 80% improv on the big screen, but only 20% in the Super Fun Night pilot. And, of course, Super Fun Night has been given the plum post-Modern Family timeslot in the fall.
Earlier today, ABC programming chief Paul Lee insisted the decision to have Aussie Rebel’s character, Kimmie use an American accent was hers, and had nothing to do with the natural reluctance of media-conglom-owned U.S. broadcast TV networks to have stars of their primetime series speak in anything but flat mid-Atlantic accents – Southern on rare occasion, but only if absolutely necessary. …
Conan O’Brien has been tapped to host Carson On TCM, a showcase of Hollywood interviews from Johnny Carson’s three decades as host of The Tonight Show. The series is set to air Mondays at 8 PM beginning July 1. O’Brien, host of Conan on TCM’s sister network TBS, will introduce five interviews each week on the series. Carson On TCM is a joint effort between Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jones (Johnny Carson: King Of Late Night, TCM’s Stardust: The Bette Davis Story) of Peter Jones Productions and Jeff Sotzing of Carson Entertainment Group, which controls the Carson archives. The July 1 show will open with Johnny Carson’s 1982 interview with then-7-year-old Drew Barrymore. It will also feature interviews with Kirk Douglas (taped in 1988), Mary Tyler Moore (1978), writer Neil Simon (1980) and George Burns (1989). The July schedule for Carson on TCM will also feature interviews with such stars as Doris Day (taped in 1976), Charlton Heston (1976), Tony Curtis (1973), Shelley Winters (1975), Ronald Reagan (1975), Robin Williams (1981), Mel Brooks (1975), Bette Davis (1983), Fred Astaire (1979), Henry Fonda (1980), Elizabeth Taylor (1992) and William Holden (1976).
Turner Entertainment seems to try hardest to make advertisers laugh at its upfront presentation — and generally succeeded this time with help from Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, and TBS newcomer Pete Holmes. In a recorded routine, Ferrell said that he had bought the company and with his background in comedy “I couldn’t care less” about networks including CNN, TNT, and TruTv. Since “I like to mess around with my new toys,” he introduced the new boss: Charles Barkley. The former NBA star said that since “I’m in charge now” viewers would be “seeing a lot more Charles Barkley” — cutting to clips from Turner shows that insert him into the action. “This is the kind of bold thinking I was hoping for,” Ferrell said. “With me as CEO of Turner, and Charles, can you really go wrong?”
3RD UPDATE – FINAL: (See Conan and Obama videos here and here.) We warned you not to expect much from tonight’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. And true to form it failed to deliver. Bland to a fault Conan O’Brien didn’t lay a glove on celebrity-in-chief Barack Obama. (Bring back Seth Meyers…) But the President got an easy laugh with a showbiz joke that couldn’t have made Comcast too happy. (He noted that, of 22 recent basketball shots, he had 2 hits and 20 misses. “The executives at NBC asked, ‘What’s your secret?’” POTUS said.) O’Brien’s best line of the night was comparing the relationship between Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to a blind date between Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow. (“In theory they understand each other’s positions. But deep down you know nothing’s ever going to happen.”) Obama got in the nastiest media dig. Noting that CNN has “taken some knocks” – because of errors during reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings - he said, “Fact is I admire their commitment to cover all sides of a story – just in case one of them happens to be accurate.” Obama even stabbed his liberal media cronies. He said saying seeing David Axelrod going to work for MSNBC was “a nice change of pace since MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod”.
Steven Spielberg – whom Obama called “my wonderful friend” - played a pivotal role in a video claiming the …
3RD UPDATE, 3:40 PM: Psy is the only act to get 1 billion hits on YouTube with his “Gangnam Style” video, and his follow-up video “Gentleman” is already past 232M views. He has been tapped to join CBS News’ table at tomorrow’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner alongside the likes of Homeland‘s Claire Danes and her husband, Hannibal‘s Hugh Dancy.
2ND UPDATE, 8:10 AM: One day before the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Fox News Channel has said who from Hollywood it is bringing to the event — and it’s a big list. While Greta Van Susteren is passing on this year’s dinner, Fox News stars Bill O’Reilly, Chris Wallace, Geraldo Rivera and Bret Baier will be in attendance, as will the likes of Oscar-winner screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and a contingent from sister studio Fox’s latest X-Men movie: director Bryan Singer and producer-writer Simon Kinberg. See who will be sitting at FNC’s 14 tables below. Also check back for more last-minute additions as we head into the final hours before Saturday’s dinner.
UPDATE, THURSDAY PM: TV comedy king Chuck Lorre will be making his first White House Correspondents’ Dinner appearance this year while waiting for series-pickup news for his hot CBS pilot Mom. Lorre, who is behind the CBS series The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men and Mike & Molly, will be sitting with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Related: Conan O’Brien Tweets Pic From DC
PREVIOUSLY: Hollywood is again the guest everyone seems to want at their table for this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Returning headliner Conan O’Brien is set to take up the court-jester role that Jimmy Kimmel played last year and news organizations have begun to reveal guest lists for the April 27 event. There’s a lot of Tinseltown glitter already set alongside generals and top-tier cabinet secretaries — as well as power players like Harvey Weinstein. We know President Obama and the first lady will be there; here’s who else we know is going from Hollywood so far:
Now this is a White House press briefing we might tune in for. Conan O’Brien paid a visit to the West Wing today ahead of his hosting gig tomorrow at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Politico reports the TBS late-night host met with press secretary Jay Carney, and he also test-drove the press room podium, saying “I’ve got to get one of these”. (Maybe he’ll swap it out with his Conan desk soon?) He called the reporters’ press area “the nicest college dorm I’ve ever seen”.
DC is starting to fill up with invitees to the annual dinner, and today the MPAA hosted a Creativity Conference with Time magazine and Microsoft featuring several media biggies. The idea was to reboot Hollywood’s mojo in the wake of losing the political fight over the anti-piracy SOPA bill last year, widening the gulf between content creators and Silicon Valley. Among the participants: Harvey Weinstein, Chris Dodd, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, PBS boss Paula Kerger, Beasts Of The Southern Wild helmer Benh Zeitlin and keynote speaker Bill Clinton. The panelists didn’t break any new ground, but the ever-outspoken Weinstein had some choice words for Google — though he didn’t call it out by name. “They are all stealing (content) under the guise of, ‘We’re all hippies.’ ” he said during a session with Time managing editor Richard Stengel. “Well, hippies don’t have $22 billion …
Conan O’Brien Tweets Pic From DC For White House Correspondents’ Dinner; CNN Joins Others In Airing Event
Looks like Team Coco is in the house. Well, actually just near the house, but it is the White House we’re talking about. In the nation’s capital to host this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, Conan O’Brien today tweeted a pic of himself in front of the Executive Mansion. “In D.C. to perform at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Practicing my opening “Goofy Sunglasses” bit,” the TBS late-night host wrote Thursday. Saturday’s dinner is the Boston native’s second stint as headliner. He also hosted in 1995, a couple of years after joining Late Night.
Scandal’s Kerry Washington will be there and so will Steven Spielberg and House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey but this year’s White House Correspondents’ dinner will not be attracting the Hollywood players of previous years says The Hill. President Obama is attending the Conan O’Brien-hosted dinner but George Clooney isn’t coming this year. The daily Congressional newspaper cites the big Tinseltown turnout for the recent second Inauguration, the lack of a good juicy scandal and the more frequent presence of Hollywood types in the nation’s capitol nowadays as the primary reasons for “more subdued” event this year. Charlize Theron spoke at a congressional breakfast on AIDS awareness today in D.C. today and was a guest at last year’s White House Correspondents dinner but she won’t be attending the April 27 event this year. WME boss Ari Emanuel won’t be attending this year either. Neither will Fox News’ Greta Van Susteran who has become infamous over the past few years for bringing guests like Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian to the dinner.
After last year’s WHCD, Tom Brokaw was highly critical of the love-in between Hollywood and the beltway. “It is time to rethink it. I think George Clooney is a great guy. I would like to meet Charlize Theron. I don’t think the big press event in Washington should be that kind of glittering event where …
2ND UPDATE: Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jimmy Fallon are in repeats tonight. But Conan O’Brien‘s show is original and Boston is his hometown so he comments on today’s bombings (below). So does Jimmy Kimmel (below). Also Craig Ferguson (video below) who notes during his cold open that, when he became an American citizen in 2008, he spoke at Faneuil Hall on July 4th at the invitation of Boston Mayor Tommy Menino:
CONAN O’BRIEN: We have a great show for you tonight. But first, I have to mention what an upsetting and sad day it’s been. Boston is my hometown – it’s where I grew up, and it’s where my family lives. So I just wanted to take a moment to say that – like everyone here – my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and everyone who has been affected by this senseless act. That said — it is our job to do a show. We’re going to try and entertain you the best we can. Which, given our track record, gives you people a 20% chance of having a good time tonight.
JIMMY KIMMEL: Well – it was a terrible day. Very bad things happened today for no good reason – and our thoughts are with the people of Boston and everyone who is suffering as a result of the bombings at the marathon. It’s a disgusting thing. I don’t understand it. But my job is to make you laugh and so I will try to do that. And – I will probably fail. I’m failing already.
TBS has renewed Conan O’Brien‘s late-night talk show for another two years. Conan has been picked up through November 2015, when it will mark its fifth-year anniversary on TBS. “When we invited Conan O’Brien to come to TBS, we knew he would bring with him a passionately loyal following of young adults,” said TBS’ head of programming Michael Wright. “We are proud to extend our relationship with Conan as he continues to forge the future of late night. I just wish we didn’t decide to tell him on April Fools’ Day.” While Conan has not been a top ratings performer, TBS touts its median age, which is younger than any other late-night talk show, and the show’s leading online activity and engagement. Conan is produced by O’Brien’s Conaco, which is also behind a new late-night talk show hosted by Pete Holmes that will launch behind Conan this fall.
Team Coco is heading back to Washington D.C. Conan O’Brien will be the headliner of this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner, it was announced today. “Thrilled to reveal @ConanObrien has agreed to headline White House Correspondents Association’s scholarship dinner April 27 @TeamCoco,” WHCA president and Fox News Channel correspondent Ed Henry tweeted this morning. This isn’t the late-night host’s first time toplining the DC event. In 1995, when O’Brien was the host of NBC’s Late Night, he roasted then-President Bill Clinton and others from the stage. The annual mockfest has become a magnet for Presidents and other politicians, the fourth estate, Hollywood heavyweights, and tabloid fixtures. ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel headlined the dinner last year.
Fox has closed the deals for a script order to a single-camera medical comedy from Conan O’Brien‘s Conaco and Warner Bros TV. The project’s title, Bob’s New Heart Show, appears to be a riff on TV classic The Bob Newhart Show. Written by Ben Wexler (Community), Bob’s New Heart Show centers on a young hotshot doctor who, after receiving a heart transplant, re-evaluates his life and takes over the small family practice in the working-class neighborhood where he grew up. Wexler is executive producing with O’Brien, David Kissinger and Jeff Ross. This marks Conaco’s first project for Fox since the company set up shop at WBTV in 2010. The company is currently working on off-cycle ABC comedy pilot Super Fun Night, created by and starring Rebel Wilson.
EXCLUSIVE: Books as source material for comedy series projects have been hot the last few development seasons. Now, with book publishing undergoing h a digital revolution, digital books are making the leap to television too.
ABC has put in development an untitled single-camera comedy based on the Kindle Single memoir Keep Swinging by Rick Marin. This is the first Kindle Single to be optioned by Hollywood since Amazon launched its service for short stories, long-form journalism and opinion pieces in January 2011.
Former Everybody Loves Raymond executive producer Lew Schneider will co-write the TV adaptation with Marin for Conan O’Brien’s Conaco Prods., which is producing with Warner Bros. TV. The comedy centers on an artsy dad with zero interest in sports who is thrown into a new family dynamic and social life as he and his wife face a challenge for which they are woefully ill-equipped: a jock kid. Marin, Schneider, O’Brien, David Kissinger and Jeff Ross are executive producing.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Jay Leno’s spokesman has now issued this statement: ”Jay’s foremost concern is for the wonderful people who work for The Tonight Show. He did what was necessary to ensure their well-being.”
BREAKING… EXCLUSIVE… FRIDAY 8:30 PM: NBC insiders tell me The Tonight Show went through ”downsizing” today and that 20 staffers lost their jobs. Others tell me the number is more like 25, and producers were forced to take pay cuts or lose their jobs. I’ve also learned that Jay Leno took what is being described as a “tremendous” pay cut to “save as many people’s jobs as he could”. Leno’s Tonight Show is consistently the #1 late night talk show in both households and demographics, except for some anomalies when Leno does get beaten. And that’s despite the fact that the network’s primetime ratings have been dismal for many years or that Leno himself was harshly criticized by the media for that January 2010 standoff with Conan O’Brien. Even so, The Tonight Show has been and still is a cash cow for NBC. So what happened to merit the downsizing? “I don’t think ad sales are off. I just think the people who bought this company, Comcast, wants to go through everything at NBC and get their money back,” an NBC insider tells me. ”It’s hard to go through those kinds of cuts. It’s more a network issue than a late-night issue. And I would say that Jay doesn’t get credit for digging out of a gigantic hole every single night. He’s a very valuable guy to NBC and someday everyone will understand that. He does a great job.”
The downsizing also comes just 5 days after First Lady Michelle Obama appeared as a guest for the third time on The Tonight Show: high unemployment, job creation, and taxing the rich vs the poor all are issues in the 2012 president campaign. Leno has said publicly that he’s able to bank his entire Tonight Show salary and live on the hefty fees he makes from his hectic personal appearance schedule. Leno’s new salary is reportedly $27M-$30 million a year. He reportedly brings home another $15M-$20M a year from his other gigs.
The comic’s become a cable industry icon since he moved from NBC to TBS, and he assured execs this morning that they have nothing to fear as new technologies and social media change the rules of engagement with TV viewers. “I was forced to embrace this world” after he lost his Tonight Show gig in 2010, he said this morning at The Cable Show. He discovered that unlike the old days, where the goal was simply to drive people to the tube, getting audiences “emotionally involved” has become just as important. For example, O’Brien says it doesn’t hurt ratings to release clips and other information ahead of a broadcast. When Will Ferrell recently appeared on Conan in character as Ron Burgundy to reveal his plan to make a sequel of The Anchorman, “we chipped his appearance out into bite-sized pieces and put it out everywhere.” That resulted in higher ratings for the night. Even people who already know what’s coming “say, ‘You know what, it’s 5 minutes of 11; I’m going to check out Conan‘.” Unlike his days at NBC, where he says there was “a condescending attitude about the Web,” Turner Broadcasting has been “absolutely a dream come true…They’re up for anything we’re up for.” O’Brien contrasted the new approach to TV to the strategies used when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show. Audiences used to wait for the anniversary special to see famous clips like the one of actor Ed Ames throwing