LATE NIGHT IN CRISIS, DAY 10: Conan’s Staff Will Be OK, Reps Say; Deal Expected Tonight or Sunday

As final details are hammered out, Conan O’Brien’s exit from NBC is expected to be announced late Saturday or sometime on Sunday.

O’Brien’s manager, Gavin Polone, got on the phone Saturday to deny a New York Post/Page Six report that O’Brien’s staff was upset about not being compensated as “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” shuts down.

“That’s a complete lie,” Polone said. “I’ve been in the room every time, and point number one for (O’Brien) has been and will always be that they take care of his staff in a first-rate manner.”

Polone noted that O’Brien paid his “Late Night” team out of his own pocket while the show was shut down during the Writers’ Strike.

“He has not wavered on this,” Polone said. “If they do not appropriately handle the settlements and severance for the staff, then there’s no deal. We would litigate.”

Those payouts could prove to be a pretty penny for NBC, which is believed to be shelling out between $30 million and $40 million as part of O’Brien’s exit package.

O’Brien’s executive producer, Jeff Ross, also has a hefty contract that would need to be paid out, while the show’s other talent and staffers — from members of the Max Weinberg 7 to Andy Richter, the show’s writers, all the way down to its janitorial team — would need to be paid.

Until the exit pact is finalized, O’Brien’s reps are holding out hope that they might still convince NBC to reverse course and keep the host at 11:35 p.m.

That’s looking virtually impossible at this point, however.

For now, O’Brien’s staff are prepping a farewell week of shows for “The Tonight Show,” leading to a Friday night blow-out. Among the rumored potential guests for that last episode: Tom Hanks.

Meanwhile, after the pact with NBC is finalized, O’Brien’s reps have another big job in front of them: Hammering out a deal (probably with Fox) for his new show. Under the arrangement, O’Brien could go on the air as soon as September.

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  1. Caroll Johnston says:

    How many hundreds of millions of people live in America and you mean to tell me NBC can not find one, just one, person who could sit behind the desk of the Tonight Show and host? Come on. The network reps and Hollywood executives need to get out of Burbank more, expand out of their small social circles and see what a big wide world it is out there.

  2. Renee says:

    Now that Craig Ferguson is doing so well, he’s probably first in line to take over for Letterman. So Jon Stewart as the next Tonight Show host is a good bet.

  3. David says:

    No you won’t, Rick.

  4. Rick Beck says:

    How can fans of Conan put up with his constant gyrations, pirouettes, appearing in front of the camera and disappearing in front of the camera, spitting on his fingers so he can slick back his eyebrows and whatever other distactions including the lamest of all his tacts of his segments – “In 2050” (?or whatever year he claims it to be…), he can’t dance and shouldn’t be pretending to be a dancer and that so called “band” of his will disband faster than the first snow in hell. Ooh-wee, I hate his shtick…I work at Fox, if he goes there, I will find employment elsewhere.

  5. Gino says:

    If Conan does reasonably well at Fox (or wherever
    he goes next)CBS might lure him to replace Letterman
    when Letterman retires.
    If Conan bombs at Fox, his on-air possibilities
    are over. He will probably have a production
    company and produce other people’s shows.

  6. Juan says:

    You really think STEWART would replace Leno in 2012?? Hell no. Stewart is on track to replace Letterman when he retires. There’s not a chance Stewart would replace Leno.

  7. Brian Graves says:

    They need a new Carson…and there isn’t one. The closest was Letterman…Carson’s personal preference and he’s successful on CBS laughing his rear off.

  8. Hisgirlfriday says:

    Prediction: Jon Stewart will be announced the new host of “The Tonight Show” in 2012.

  9. Duane says:

    It seems inconceivable that this is happening. The formula is simple. If a show does not garner the necessary ratings, no matter how good it is, then it’s cancelled. And Leno’s show sucks. Exactly what spell does Leno hold over Zucker and Zucker over the board of the parent company? This move is completely unfair to O’Brien and will cost NBC dearly, both monetarily and in the form of a Late Night viewership diaspora. If COCO goes to Fox, the gloves will come off nightly in his monologue, and Leno and Zucker will find themselves on the ropes not able to get up. I’ll be there right there watching.

  10. Steve Palmer says:

    Leno is simply more likeable to average viewers in average towns than Letterman or Conan, which is why he was the #1 late night host so long and will do great again when he returns. Likeability was one of Johnny Carson’s biggest attributes as well. Conan may be a better comedic performer and more clever than than Leno, but that does not always translate into being the best talk show host.

  11. Andrew de Villiers says:

    Just what does NBC plan to do in three to five years when Leno really does retire? Fallon was never intended as a replacement on Tonight and his brand of humor is even more abstract than Conan’s was. If Conan does leave NBC it’s almost a gaurantee he will go to fox and sign a deal there. That will leave whomever is in charge of NBCU five years from now in the position of either paying a lot more for Conan and paching him from Fox or wherever he lands or having to take Fox’s place as the network playing syndicated programing at 11:35 pm. They could hope Conan fails at Fox, but my bet is that with Conan starting earler than any other Late Night program he will slaughter the competition, especially with lead in programing like Bones, Fringe, 24 and House etc. NBC is stupid. They need to let Leno go and take a hit short term to stay in (or regain) control of Late Night TV.

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