I just learned that Conan O’Brien has made arrangements to pay his staff who will be laid off by NBC as of Friday. About 80 production people — like talent bookers, producers, production assistants — will be taken care of by the Late Night host who is supposed to move to The Tonight Show in 2009. Sources tell me this is on a week-to-week basis for the moment until or if Conan, who’s a WGA member and got his start as a comedy writer, goes back to work. Obviously, NBC is dying for him to return to the air because its late night ratings for the repeats have tanked. None of the late night shows have been in production during the entire November sweeps and the networks have to give sponsors free spots or “give backs” at a cost of millions.
I’ll say this: it’s a great PR move by O’Brien as well as an incredibly nice thing to do. After all, he’s the least paid of the Big Three (including Letterman and Leno), and unlike Dave’s Worldwide Pants, which is generously paying its employees through at least the end of the year, Conan’s company Conaco doesn’t own Late Night. NBC does.
And while I’m on the topic of NBC’s late night hosts, I’m told that Carson Daly was probably going to lose his show if he didn’t return to work. Oh, like that would have been a great loss to humanity, much less television. It’s incredible the lousy publicity which Daly’s decision to cross the picket line is creating. After the news broke that Carson was soliciting scab jokes, several websites (here and here are two of them) have sprung up soliciting jokes about Daly, the nastier the better.
Meanwhile, where do things stand with Jay Leno who had been a ubiquitous figure handing out food to the WGA picketers? There are no plans at the present for him to pay his show’s production people who will be laid off by NBC as of Friday. As for returning to work, “I don’t see him running to cross the line. I get that,” an insider tells me. That’s because Leno is still really furious at Jeff Zucker for handing over The Tonight Show to Conan and isn’t exactly in the mood to do any favors for NBC Universal.
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- Tonight Show Returns With Guest Hosts After Leno’s Nonwriting Staff Laid Off
- Strike Forces Late Night TV Into Repeats
- Leno vs NBC: Last Night’s Latest Round…
- Is Leno Starting to Hint About His Future?