Sure, empathizing with a guy who makes multi-millions, guaranteed for five years, over the way his boss is treating him may not come easy for the rest of us who make considerably less. But when you frame the whole late-night musical-chairs mess this way, it's a little easier: Think how you'd feel if your boss finally followed through on a promise of a promotion, and you and your family and all of your coworkers move across the country for this new job, then five months later you're told, in essence, you need to give up that spot you worked hard to get so the guy you replaced could have it again.
Now, that's not exactly what is happening over at NBC, which has confirmed that it would like to move Jay Leno back to 11:35 p.m because his 10 p.m. show did so badly that it has all of the affiliates complaining that no one is watching their 11 p.m. news shows. Jay will lose a half hour of his show to make the move, but Conan O'Brien would have to move his show start time to 12:05 a.m., and Jimmy Fallon would start later after him.
The New York Post is reporting that Conan O'Brien is seriously considering leaving NBC over the scheduling shuffle, and there are reports he would find a comfortable home on Fox. Whether nudging him out of the traditional Tonight Show time slot will be enough to put NBC in breach of contract is the big question -- a potentially $80 million question. That's what NBC would reportedly have to pay O'Brien for the rest of his contract were he legally able to walk away from it.
Putting the big numbers aside -- which is ridiculously hard to do, I know -- do you think Conan was set up to fail by allowing Leno to move in with a 10 p.m. talk show with a similar format right before the 11 p.m. news and the Tonight Show? Should he pack up and leave NBC (lawyers permitting)? And, most importantly, do you even care who is hosting which talk shows at 11:30 at night?