The war is finally over, and no matter which camp you're in, NBC and its viewers are the real losers.
Following NBC's experimental shenanigans with late-night talk shows, Conan O'Brien's short-lived stint as the host of "The Tonight Show" will end tonight as both sides have agreed to a deal. Jay Leno will move back into his old time spot following the news.
After final negotiations, O'Brien opted to leave NBC with a lot of money and severance packages for his employees but none of the intellectual property used during his stint with NBC, which began in 1993 when he took over David Letterman's spot on "Late Night."
Thus ends two weeks of NBC being being pummeled by late-night comedians from every network, including their own. It seems that Conan O'Brien saved some of his funniest bits for his last week hosting the show. He took every opportunity to grind NBC, the poorest-performing network, into the dust.
His monologues over the past seven or eight shows included slamming the network for losing $200 million (thus far) on the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, pointing out that building the studio took more time than the show was given to air, and joking the show was listed on Craigslist and items found in the studio were listed on eBay.
Perhaps O'Brien's greatest coup was "the most expensive comedy skit" ever to be aired on late-night TV, costing a reported $1.5 million to air.
NBC has struggled as of late. Only one of its shows, "NBC Sunday Night Football," ranked among the top-10 shows in the 2008-2009 season. With Leno's move to prime time, the network not only lost viewers for Leno and O'Brien, but NBC affiliates across the nation suffered a nine percent drop in news ratings with Jay Leno as the lead in.
It's worth noting majority shares of the network were purchased from General Electric by cable giant Comcast during the late-night battles.
No matter where O'Brien lands, it will be September 2010 before he's able to return to television as part of his deal. His last guests for the show are expected to be Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, and Neil Young. He jokingly apologized to Barack Obama, the queen, and others for not being able to fulfill his commitment to have them on the show.
Despite being its shortest-lived host, Conan O'Brien has left "The Tonight Show" in a memorable fashion: with a bang, not a whimper.