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After nearly two months of back-and-forth, NBC announced on Wednesday that it would transition its famed Tonight Show franchise from host Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon. And while the network hoped to avoid the sort of public acrimony that marked the power struggle between Leno and Conan O’Brien back in 2010, its kudos-filled press release managed to dredge up the lingering bitterness of O’Brien’s fans by simply ignoring him altogether.
NBC’s release makes no mention of O’Brien’s tenure as the Tonight Show host, which began in June 2009 and ended in January 2010. As Leno’s 10 pm show proved a ratings disaster, and Conan fell behind Dave Letterman‘s Late Show, the network attempted to give Leno a show at 11:30 pm and move Conan’s Tonight to midnight, which he declined, taking a buyout from the network instead.
Those eight months are largely scrubbed from the NBC statement, which reads, “Leno has hosted The Tonight Show with Jay Leno since taking over the reins from television icon Johnny Carson in 1992″ and only nods at his short absence several years ago.
Immediately, fans and media members seized on the omission, accusing NBC of wanting to “scrub” the past. In his statement, Fallon says he’s excited to be the sixth host of the Tonight Show, but that’s as close as the release came to naming O’Brien, who is now with TBS.
Snark over the omission was just a small part of the overall online anger that erupted when NBC made its announcement; O’Brien’s fans backed him with massive internet support during the initial struggle, flocking to his live shows after he left Tonight, and continued to sound off on Wednesday, showing that old wounds do not heal quickly.
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