After weeks of speculation, rumors, and negotiations, NBC and Conan O’Brien have finally reached an official deal. Conan O’Brien’s final episode as host of The Tonight Show will be Friday, January 22, and Jay Leno will return as host following the Winter Olympics starting March 1.
In addition, NBC bought Conan out of his contract with a reported payday of $45 million, one-quarter of that going to his staff. The negotiation also frees Conan to pursue other projects starting September 1, 2010.
The news isn’t very surprising, as Conan O’Brien has been alluding to this Friday being his last show all week. The week’s guests have also been of an unusually high caliber, with Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Adam Sandler already appearing.
Scheduled to appear on Conan’s final Tonight Show are Will Ferrell (the very first guest on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien) and Tom Hanks.
Conan has also been wheeling out old characters. On Wednesday night’s show, Conan brought out the Masturbating Bear, a beloved character from his Late Night show that wasn’t seen on The Tonight Show.
While Team CoCo may be disappointed, this news isn’t very surprising. On the bright side, NBC did release him from the contract, despite having the ability to keep him off the air for more than three years, so perhaps when September rolls around, Conan might get a talk show on a network that doesn’t screw him over.
(Image courtesy of NBC)