When it comes to conspiracies, I'm never too keen on them. They're fun, but the sizzle always trumps the substance.
However, in the realm of television? Bring out the tinfoil hat and any other mind-protecting devices you have stowed away in your bomb shelter.
We've all seen Conan O'Brien's ultimatum to NBC on the New York Times' Media Decoder blog, wherein our redheaded protagonist played the role of Martin Luther nailing the theses on the executives' door. "I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction," he said, signifying that he wouldn't do The Tonight Show anymore if the show moved to 12:05 to accommodate a half-hour Jay Leno show at 11:35.
And you know something? I believe him. Because it's absolutely not going to happen.
What Conan did amounts to insubordination. Imagine any other TV star going to the media to resist a change that involves their show. They'd be strung up by the wrists and dragged through public opinion's town square. Think about Zach Braff drawing a line in the sand when news came out that Scrubs may not be coming back. What a diva! But in this case … all aboard #TeamConan!
It's all too convenient that the press release was published late afternoon, usually a few hours before they start production on that day's episode. Sure enough, Tuesday night's Tonight Show monologue was substantially packed with jokes about Conan being ousted at NBC. Say what you will about them, but the network has usually been rather easygoing airing satire about themselves (see: Seinfeld episodes about Seinfeld doing a pilot for NBC, and just about the entire breadth of 30 Rock's humor). That's why if this triangular tiff between Conan, Leno, and NBC were anything but a fanciful smokescreen, the jokes and bits that aired last night would have been censor-stuffed. Hell, they even pulled Howie Mandel into this scandal. You know that's some serious shit.
This is where the conspiratorial "we've been conned, pull the wool from over your eyes and wake up sheeple" diatribes are supposed to go. So pretend they're here. And bear in mind, like you've already surmised, that I have nothing to base this on other than years of watching television (which, now that I think about it, makes me an industry expert). But the ratings and buzz around Conan's show this week was unlike anything seen since his first week on the job. NBC has to know about his popularity with the 18-35 demographic and would understand the impact of a press release such as yesterday's hitting the Internet.
From the Sheinhardt Wig Company joke on 30 Rock to Conan's new NBC slogan ("No longer just screwing up prime time!"), NBC absolutely gets it. Viewers are more prone to latch onto a person or a show than a corporation. Nobody likes corporations, they're easy to revile: they're faceless, soulless, and they make more money than us. But they do provide shows and give birth to actors and writers that the people adore, so in that regard they understand their role as the bad cop and play it to perfection.
Given all this, I'll probably have to retract this entire article if Conan does end up leaving as a result of this game of musical time slots. But being the rookie conspiracy nut, odds are I'll instead reformulate this working theory to include the new world order, JFK's assassination, and why Necco Wafers are still being made.