Signs point to Friday Tonight farewell for O’Brien

LOS ANGELES — Late night TV host Conan O’Brien all but posted a farewell banner on this week’s “Tonight” shows as his exit negotiations with NBC neared their conclusion Wednesday.

LOS ANGELES — Late night TV host Conan O’Brien all but posted a farewell banner on this week’s “Tonight” shows as his exit negotiations with NBC neared their conclusion Wednesday.

In the late-night tradition of a star-studded goodbye, O’Brien’s guests Thursday include such big names as actor Robin Williams and singer Barry Manilow. Actor Tom Hanks was scheduled for Friday, as was comedian Will Ferrell — the first guest O’Brien welcomed when he started last June as “Tonight” host.

And then there was this joke from his monologue Wednesday: “Hi, I’m Conan O’Brien, and I’m just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history.”

It was yet another indication that he’s bracing for the bitter end of his brief tenure at “Tonight,” less than eight months after taking over as host from Jay Leno. The show previously had been scheduled for reruns next week.

The red-headed comedian was negotiating with NBC for a severance package of more than $30 million, which would clear the way for Leno to return to late night. The proposed deal would allow O’Brien to work at another network as soon as this fall.

The announcement of an agreement was possible Thursday as the sides worked to resolve the final hurdle: compensation for O’Brien’s staff and crew of about 200 people.

O’Brien was said to be “dug in” on the issue out of concern for the workers, while NBC said this week that it had already agreed to pay “millions of dollars to compensate every one of them” and deemed it a public relations “ploy.”

NBC’s effort to keep both O’Brien and Leno at the network ran aground when Leno’s experimental prime-show show drew poor ratings and affiliate complaints that forced its cancellation. When NBC proposed moving Leno back to 11:35 p.m. EST (0435 GMT) with a half-hour show, O’Brien refused to host “Tonight” at 12:05 a.m. (0505 GMT).

O’Brien, after posting lacklustre numbers, has seen his viewership jump in recent days. His Monday night Nielsen Co. rating was up more than 60 per cent in total viewers over the previous fourth quarter average and up about 80 per cent among advertiser-favoured young adults.

Fox executives have expressed admiration for O’Brien but said they couldn’t discuss opportunities with him while he’s under contract to NBC.

O’Brien’s recent “Tonight” monologues have been notable for a barrage of jokes at the expense of NBC and Leno (“I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life, unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too,” was one crack).

His final shows may be far less celebratory than those of his long-serving predecessors but, like them, he’ll have top-notch company.

Johnny Carson’s final guests, after 30 years at “Tonight,” were Williams and singer Bette Midler, who appeared on his second-to-last broadcast. Carson hosted his final show in 1992 without guests.

When Leno left “Tonight” last May after 17 years, his final week of shows included Mel Gibson, Prince and Billy Crystal. Leno’s final guest on his last show was his then-successor, O’Brien.

On the Net:

NBC, http://www.nbc.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick sign memorandum of understanding

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Chris Kempczinski, then-incoming president of McDonald’s USA, speaks during a presentation at a McDonald’s restaurant in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, McDonald’s said the company will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting in 2022. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
McDonald’s to mandate anti-harassment training worldwide

New standards starting in January 2022

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircrafts are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet says it will extend its temporary suspension of international sun flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean until June 4. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
WestJet extends temporary suspension of international sun flights until June

Customers with affected itineraries will be notified of cancellations

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)
US co-ordinates Afghanistan pullout with NATO withdrawal

Attacks on U.S. troops have largely paused but that Taliban attacks on the Afghans increased

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department while protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright, late Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Minnesota shooting charging decision awaited, protests go on

Police and protesters faced off once again after nightfall Tuesday

A prairie fire in the Burnt Lake district. (Photo by Bert Fors via Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Fires of spring 1931 in central Alberta

Central Alberta has just come through a relatively warm and dry winter… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Boris Johnson is to blame for what’s happening in Ireland

Twenty-three years of peace in Northern Ireland, after a sectarian war that… Continue reading

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) gets fouled by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) scores the game winning goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender David Rittich (33) in overtime NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Most Read