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Ouch! Conan Slaps Down NBC, Will Quit if Tonight Moves to 12:05

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NBC wanted a decision quick, and it got one: Conan O’Brien says he will quit [Update: or to be precise, all but says it] the Tonight Show if NBC moves it to 12:05 to shoehorn in Jay Leno at 11:35. This is not Conan “quitting” the Tonight Show exactly, but it is demanding NBC choose him or Leno.

[Update: NBC says that, yes, there will be indeed be a new Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien tonight. You now have plans for the evening.]

You can read the whole statement here. And I recommend that you do. It is really one hell of a statement. Conan is publicly one of the most even-keeled guys in late-night, but this is quite the thorough smackdown of NBC and how it has badly used him, screwed up its primetime and then screwed up the un-screwing-up.

After the jump, let’s parse some of the choicer lines:

I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

They are every bit as panicky and obnoxious behind the scenes as you think they are.

It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule.

Leno got beat by David Letterman for two years, and he had E.R. to save his tuchas! What did I have? Jay freaking Leno!

NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule

…and I am not about to get screwed over for their incompetence.

I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.

Seriously, NBC: The Leno Show didn’t teach you what happens when you mess with people’s habits? You have to kill a half-century-old franchise to learn your lesson? After which you’ll blame me for it–again?

Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

So if you thought you could trot out some new-age-of-TV hoo-hah to smooth over my humiliation…

I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next.

…my agent is now accepting calls. See you in Hell, jerks. Or on Fox.