A limerick in honor of Conan O’Brien’s Solomon-like decision about the Tonight Show — not to “seriously damage what [he considers] to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting,” (I wrote it both as a fan and as a recovering lawyer.)
By Madeleine Begun Kane
Dear Conan, I’m glad you refused.
By your Network, you’ve sure been abused.
You’re right to be teed.
You’re a class act, indeed.
NBC’s breach can not be excused.
Update: I haven’t seen Conan’s contract. But here’s NBC’s argument, as I understand it: NBC can legally air The Tonight Show with Conan at 12:05 a.m. after a new half-hour Leno show, because O’Brien’s contract doesn’t specify a time. I don’t buy it.
Following NBC’s argument to its logical conclusion, NBC could air The Tonight Show at 4:00 a.m., or even at noon. In fact, by NBC’s reasoning, Conan could have stayed at his old 12:35 a.m. slot and Jay could have kept his original 11:35 p.m. Tonight Show slot. All NBC would have had to do would be to change the names of the shows: Conan’s to the Tonight Show, and Jay’s to the Jay Leno Show. Sorry, NBC, this doesn’t pass the straight-faced test.
One more point: Rumor has it that Jay’s contract specifies a 10 p.m. time, and that (the argument goes) this weakens Conan’s position. I disagree. Conan O’Brien was being promoted to a show that already existed in a specific time slot, whereas Jay’s show was being created from scratch. So they are not analogous situations.
Update 2: Is this a slam dunk for Conan? No. But as a “recovering lawyer” who litigated my share of contract disputes, I’d rather take Conan’s case to a jury.