The much-publicized late-night TV battle between NBC and hosts Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno has finally come to an end: Conan has accepted a $45 million exit deal, and will host his final episode of The Tonight Show Friday, January 22. Bidding him farewell will be Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, and musical guest Neil Young.
In tribute to the towering, orange-haired host, let’s hope ol’ Neil plays “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.”
Or maybe “After the Gold Rush.”
According to the AP, Conan, 46, will get more than $33 million of the $45 million exit deal, with the remainder going to his 200-strong staff. The deal allows Leno to return to The Tonight Show, which he hosted for 17 years. His first episode as Tonight‘s returning host will be on March 1.
NBC’s shift in its late-night TV schedule comes just seven months after Leno handed The Tonight Show to Conan to start his new weeknight series, The Jay Leno Show, airing at 10 P.M. Ratings for both shows plummeted, so NBC attempted to return Leno to his original 11:35 P.M. time slot, and bump Conan to 12:05 P.M., a move he detested, saying the shift would “seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.”
With Conan’s exit and Leno’s return, speculation is swirling regarding Conan’s move to another TV job. NBC has said the host is free to join another network as soon as September, and Fox, a small player in the late-night game, has been mentioned as an interested party, as well as Comedy Central.
So, SPIN readers, what do you think of Conan’s exit and Leno’s return as the host of The Tonight Show? Tell us in the comment section below!