Across the internet the story and outrage spread like wildfire as NBC inexplicably folded before the juggernaut assault of Leno's evil team of Hollywood lawyers, morally bankrupt agents, powerful connections and possibly shadow assassins. The network offered to move Conan's Tonight Show to a much later time slot to make way for Leno in the 11 o'clock hour. After trying valiantly to defend himself with elegance, wit and dignity, Conan was ultimately fired, Jay was moved back, and the only people left happy by the whole thing were some ... some old people probably, like in fucking Kansas somewhere, who wouldn't know good comedy if it farted in their mouths.
But the truth is ...
Leno had nearly nothing to do with Conan getting fired. The popular phrasing is that Leno "took back The Tonight Show" after "giving it to Conan." But Leno doesn't "own" The Tonight Show -- NBC does. It was never Leno's choice to make. The sad reality is that Conan signed a tragically shitty contract with NBC -- a contract that held no specifications for his timeslot -- and it came back to bite him. And he should have seen it coming: Both Leno and Letterman have timeslot clauses built into their contracts to avoid this very thing. As Matthew Belloni, an entertainment lawyer and journalist, explains:
"Any talent lawyer worth his five percent fee is probably calling to ask for timeslot guarantees."
It's as basic as a call girl clause or a cocaine rider.