Conan O’Brien on ’60 Minutes’: NBC ‘started to get toxic’

Conan O’Brien’s talk with Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes” airs tonight on CBS. We’ve already shown you a teaser – here are some more early tidbits:

O’Brien on how he has been since going off the air:
“I went through some stuff. And I got very depressed at times. It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened. When we started putting this tour together, I started to feel better almost immediately. …”

On the possibility that, after taking over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno, NBC might reverse its decision:
“I’m a paranoid person.  And I think … I’m the kind of person that can come up with lots of negative scenarios. But I remembered thinking that seemed like … that was a stretch even for me.”

On his reaction to NBC telling him it was putting Leno back in latenight:
“It just felt like the tone went very quickly from, ‘Take your time, we understand this is a tough decision,’ to (snaps his fingers) you know, ‘Let’s go.’  And that probably helped me a little bit feel like, ‘You know what?  This environment doesn’t feel right and I’ve been with these people a long time.  And I don’t like – I really don’t like the way this is going. And when it started to get toxic and I started to feel that I’m not sure these … people even really want me here.  Let’s just – let’s just – I can’t do it.”

Wife Liza O’Brien on how Conan reacted:
“This was just really, really hard for him. It – it was watching someone’s heart get broken.”

Conan, on whether Leno has reached out to him:
“No.”
 
On NBC’s comments that choosing Leno over O’Brien was a business decision affected by the penalty the network would have had to pay Leno:
“Uh huh, yeah. So if you look at it that way and you’re working at say, I don’t know, General Electric and you tell them, ‘Uh you know there’s this to make that guy go away or there’s this, uh, that decision’s probably pretty clear. And, uh, I think in my gut I honestly believe everybody knows, that’s what happened. They did what they had to do and OK, I get it.  And the only thing I take exception to is subsequently people saying, ‘Well, you know, Conan was losing money and you know actually he was murdering cats…'”

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  1. Dan says:

    It’s a tough one to call
    So in a nutshell: Leno was number 1 in the ratings and didn’t want to leave the show. Conan threatened to join another network unless he was given the Tonight Show, so NBC booted Leno and give Conan the gig. Conan didn’t bring in huge ratings like Leno, so NBC dumped him and brought back Leno.
    Who’s side do you fall down on here?
    Leno had every right to stay on the show. If you’re number 1, don’t remove him. Although he should reach out to Conan instead of ignoring him now.
    Conan is a talented anchor who shouldn’t haven been treated the way he was by the execs. I feel bad that he’s on a cable show. The guy deseves a national network like ABC or FOX.
    Overall, you have to blame the NBC execs for the fiasco and the bitterness. And they’re still last in the ratings. The only thing keeping this network afloat is the football rights. And Universal Studios ain’t doing much better with their film slates.
    For the last few years, I’ve looked at NBC’s pilot choices for the fall and give each 1-2 years at the most. All have either been cancelled or under-performed.
    Can’t even remember the last time NBC had a top 20 Nielson ratings drama or comedy show.
    Now I’m sure there’s talented staff at NBC, but I’m also positive there’s too many people in this studio who shouldn’t be in the management positions they’re in. NBC was my favourite network in the 80s and 90s. Today’s it’s a diaster. I pity the shareholders.

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