Tuesday, November 16, 2010

jay vs. conan: behind the scenes


vanity fair excerpts bill carter's book the war for late night:


Finally, Glaser looked across the room to where Conan was sitting and asked him, “What do you want to do?”

His chest muscles were so constricted, Conan wondered briefly if he might be having a heart attack. “What I want to do,” he said, haltingly, his voice rough and raw, “is something that all of you are going to tell me I can’t do.”

He had their full attention now, all eyes pinned to him. “I want to write a statement that says exactly how I feel about it. You guys are going to tell me that I’m giving up all my leverage if I’m supposed to go to another network or something, but I can’t wait. I don’t want to play games here.”

He described how much the show meant to him, the legacy of Carson, the offers he had passed up to get this chance, and how losing it would be crushing—and unfair. Because they were never really given a chance.

The words came freely; he composed them on the spot. But they flowed, syntax perfect, no hesitation between sentences. His voice grew softer, even more strained with emotion when he got to the core of his message: he could not accept a postponement in a nightly habit Americans had participated in and shared for nearly six decades; he would not be an accomplice to the destruction that this idea of NBC’s might inflict on the greatest franchise in television history. If it truly came to this, if NBC would actually force him to decide whether to give up his dream or play a role in undermining a cultural landmark, then maybe it would be better for him to find someplace else to work, someplace that prized the art of late-night television more than NBC now apparently did.

When Conan finished, his group sat silent. Jeff Ross, his own eyes welling up, looked around and saw no dry eyes on the Conan team. Patty Glaser finally broke the silence. “I like it,” she said. She paused, then said definitively, “Let’s do it.”

read the full story here.

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