Jay Leno spent a portion of Monday night's "Jay Leno Show" explaining his side of the shakeup at NBC, shifting the blame to bad decisions by NBC executives and Conan O'Brien's weak ratings.
Leno explained to the audience that NBC came to him in 2004 and told him they would be replacing him with "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien in 2009. "I'm sitting in my office and an NBC executive comes to me and says, 'Listen, Conan O'Brien has gotten offers from other networks and we don't want him to go, so we're offering him 'The Tonight Show.'"
Leno continued, stating that although NBC didn't renew his "Tonight Show" contract, they wanted him to remain on the network. "Before I could go anywhere else, it would be at least a year or 18 months before I could go and do a show somewhere else. They said, 'We want to keep you here.' I said, okay."
In an effort to keep Jay on the network, executives offered him a prime-time show.
Leno next explained that while his show didn't make it past four months, Conan's "Tonight Show" was suffering as well. "Four months go by, we [The Jay Leno Show] don't make it. Meanwhile Conan's show during the summer when we were not on was not doing well. The great hope was that we would help him. Well, we didn't help him any."
Leno then explained how NBC executives came and offered him the 11:35 PM timeslot, shifting Conan's "Tonight Show" back to 12:05 AM. "I said, 'What's your idea?' They said, 'Look, how about you do a half-hour show at 11:30?'" Leno replied, "Do you think Conan will go for that?"
Conan rejected the idea of doing "The Tonight Show" half an hour later -- which would have made it "The Tomorrow Show."
Leno finally said the NBC executives came to him and said, "If he [Conan] decides to walk and doesn't want to do it, do you [Jay Leno] want the show back?" Leno said, "Yeah, I'll take the show back."