I've never been a big fan of Jay Leno. Back in middle and high school I would always watch Letterman on Fridays and during the summer. I always changed the channel to NBC for Conan though.
Well, Conan is going away for a while thanks to what can only be described as one of the biggest Fuckups in Tv history. For my two cents I think Conan has won a moral victory against NBC. Conan has been a talk show host for nearly twenty years now. He is a proven brand with an established fan base, and there are enough options for him now thanks to cable that he is not just going to disappear off the face of the earth like Arsenio Hall( unless that is what he wants to do).
Worst case scenario Conan winds up on basic cable like Jon Stewart. That would mean less money, but on the flip side he would probably have more creative freedom than he had on The Tonight Show. Plus, he'll be coming out of this shit storm smelling pretty good.
Leno in contrast, must be the most hated person in broadcast tv at this point. Much of the creative community already loathed him because his crappy show has taken up seven hours of tv that used to be for scripted dramas. Now he will be known for taking the Tonight Show from Conan. He may become the highest rated talk show host again thanks to his overly broad humor, but his reputation will probably never recover from this. Leno was always criticized for being unfunny, but he always seemed seemed to be a likable enough guy. Letterman of course hates Leno for outmaneuvering him in getting the Tonight Show after Carson left, but that was a fair bit different from the current situation. After all, that was all behind the scenes. In this case, the NBC executives and Leno basically destroyed NBC's prime time lineup and then created a situation where the late night lineup would be fucked up as well if Conan didn't leave. Leno is lucky in that he will probably have a job at NBC for a fair deal longer than Zucker and co, but I'm sure all the mockery and derision must be getting to him at some level.
This situation obviously must be very stressful for Conan and all those who work with him, but this crises is also an opportunity for him to get back to doing his kind of show. I understand why Conan could not pass up the opportunity to do the Tonight Show, but he really would have been better off either going to another network or staying put at Late Night. Conan is just too quirky and niche to be chasing after Leno's audience and trying so resulted in a show that while pretty good, was inferior to his previous one. I hope Conan goes back to New York, finds some small theater or studio like what Jon Stewart or Letterman work in (that Tonight Show set at Universal Studios was just too big and ostentatious) gets Joel back, takes Andy with him, and churns out the good old weirdness (string dance, masturbating bear, if they mated, etc.) that he is known for.