Rob Lowe Counsels Conan O'Brien on 'Tonight Show'

Rob Lowe: "In a couple of years, no one will even remember 'The Tonight Show.'"

ByABC News
January 15, 2010, 5:35 AM

Jan. 15, 2010 — -- Hollywood continues to rally around Conan O'Brien amid rumors that NBC may can the "Tonight Show" host as early as today.

Thursday on "The Tonight Show," "Brothers & Sisters" actor Rob Lowe drew on his own experience leaving a hit NBC show to offer the host advice.

"As someone who has left a celebrated NBC franchise himself ... it can be done," Lowe said. "If my experience can give you anything, it's that in a couple of years, no one will even remember 'The Tonight Show,' just like they don't remember 'The West Wing.'"

Prior to "The Tonight Show," on "The Jay Leno Show," special guest Jimmy Kimmel eviscerated Leno for refusing to stand up for O'Brien and, perhaps, for refusing to retire and let the younger generation of comedians take control.

Kimmel participated in Leno's "10 at 10" question-and-answer segment via satellite. Asked by Leno, "Ever order anything off the TV?," Kimmel shot back, "Like NBC ordered your show off the TV?"

The ABC late night comic ended the interview admonishing Leno, saying, "All you have to take care of is cars. I mean, we have lives to lead here. You have $800 million dollars -- for God's sake, leave our shows alone."

But some people are sticking up for Leno, like Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports who has played a role in many of NBC's entertainment endeavors, including the creation of "Saturday Night Live."

Thursday, Ebersol told The New York Times that O'Brien has no one to blame for his fate besides himself and his disappointing performance, adding that it was "chicken-hearted and gutless," of the comedian to use his shows this week "to blame a guy you couldn't beat in the ratings."

Ebersol added that "what this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan."

Meanwhile, movie and TV industry blog Deadline Hollywood reported late Thursday that NBC wants to resolve the "Conan problem" by the end of the day today, likely by offering him a huge cash settlement and a promise that he can appear on a competing network sooner rather than later. reported that Leno struck a deal with NBC to take back his old "Tonight Show" gig, reported that O'Brien will leave the show Friday, Jan. 22.

Representatives for O'Brien and "The Tonight Show" declined to comment on the reports.

All this week, the hits kept coming for NBC. Unfortunately for the network, they weren't the kind they wanted.

Both Leno and O'Brien assaulted the suits Wednesday night as the network's programming imbroglio dragged on. In his monologue at the top of "The Jay Leno Show," the host addressed the ongoing kerfuffle by announcing, "Welcome to NBC, America's most dysfunctional TV family. And you thought the Gosselins were screwed up."

NBC announced Sunday that it plans to drop O'Brien from his 11:35 p.m. ET time slot come February to make room for a re-jiggered Jay Leno program, which will leave its 10 p.m. prime time slot.

In a direct reply to O'Brien's Tuesday night monologue, Leno admitted that "Conan O'Brien is understandably very upset."

But he marveled at the fact that O'Brien has been host of NBC's most venerable late night franchise for seven months.

"How did he get that deal?" asked Leno. "We only got four months! Who's his agent?"

Still, Leno's jabs seemed less barbed than O'Brien's in the later time slot.

Wednesday, O'Brien seemed wholly uninterested in currying favor with NBC, and even took a swipe at his in-house rival.

"Hosting the 'Tonight Show' has been a fulfillment of a lifelong dream to me," he said. "I just want to say to the kids out there: 'You can do anything you want in life -- unless Jay Leno wants to do it too."

O'Brien's first guest of the evening, the dry-witted British comedian Ricky Gevais, got in on the fun too.

"You're having a good time sticking it to NBC aren't you," asked Gervais, who will be hosting the upcoming Golden Globe Awards for the network. "What are you going to do [next]? ... You've got no discernable skills."