Conan O’Brien, whose final appearance as host of “The Tonight Show” will be this Friday, has come to terms with NBC on a “golden parachute,” negotiating a buyout of his contract worth a reported $45 million.
The recent controversy has provided a boost in the ratings for O’Brien’s “Tonight,” with the late-night program winning its time slot and actually drawing more viewers than Jay Leno’s now-canceled prime time program. But it was too little, too late.
O’Brien said hosting “Tonight” has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and reminded all the kids in the audience, “You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too.”
Leno returns as host of “The Tonight Show” on March 1st.
Under the deal, which comes only seven months after O’Brien took over from Leno, O’Brien will get more than $33 million, NBC said. The rest will go to his staff.
O’Brien’s manager, Gavin Polone, told The Wall Street Journal.”In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew, and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket. Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.”
O’Brien will be free to begin another TV job as soon as September, NBC said, in an announcement aired on its “Today” show.
So ends one of the more bizzare programming debacles in recent memory. Although Leno regularly beat the competition in the ratings during his 17 years hosting “Tonight,” his reputation has taken a beating of late. He has been cast as one of the bad guys in the late night drama, along with NBC exec Jeff Zucker. Critics have painted Leno as a grasping backstabber, a has-been who should have been content to go out on top, and walk off into the sunset.
Not to mix metaphors, but if the shoe fits…
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