Career climbers share Conan O'Brien's pain

Wed Nov 10, 2010 9:22am EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Late-night television host Conan O'Brien was not alone when his career aspirations were crushed earlier this year by an older colleague who refused to retire, experts say.

After just seven months O'Brien, 47, was forced out as host of NBC's long-running "The Tonight Show" in January when he refused to move his show to a later time and accommodate Jay Leno, 60, in a reshuffle of the network's late night line-up. Leno was later reinstated as host of "The Tonight Show."

The move sparked outrage among O'Brien's peers and young fans because, some experts say, his on-the-job experience was shared in workplaces around the United States by people who felt their careers were being stifled by an older generation.

"What was largely taking place was this huge amount of anger and animosity toward Leno for blocking the way of the next generation," said gerontologist Ken Dychtwald. "That's happening not only on NBC but in every work site in America."

"Every single workforce is going through the same drama, the Leno/Conan dynamic," he said.

O'Brien walked away from the NBC TV network with a $45 million severance deal. He returned to TV this week with a new late night show, "Conan," on cable channel TBS, but his wounds are still raw.

"People ask me why I named the show 'Conan.' I did it so I'd be harder to replace," he told the audience on Monday night's premiere telecast.

For more than 15 years, O'Brien hosted NBC's "Late Night" talk show, which was broadcast after "The Tonight Show," and he was anointed several years ago by NBC to succeed Leno in 2009.   Continued...

<p>Comedian Conan O'Brien is shown on stage during the premiere of his new late night talk show on TBS 'Conan'at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California November 8, 2010 in this publicity photograph released by TBS. REUTERS/Meghan Sinclair/ Conaco LL/TBS/Handout</p>