Conan O'Brien has landed a new gig to replace his short-lived run at the helm of "The Tonight Show." While it took him only a few weeks to sign with TBS for a Monday-Thursday 11 p.m. talk show, O'Brien may have to wait awhile to get back in the Emmy race. Remember, this critical darling failed to win over viewers in the vaunted 11:35 time slot and even the final season of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" managed just one Emmy Award nomination last year.
It took Conan O'Brien a full decade of hosting "Late Night" before the show landed its first Emmy bid in the variety comedy music series category in 2003. It contended unsuccessfully in that race for five years, always losing to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," which O'Brien will now face head-on in the ratings. In both 2008 and 2009, "Late Night" lost its slot to the resurgent "Saturday Night Live," while "The Daily Show" kept winning.
O'Brien and his writing staff finally won an Emmy in 2007 after being also-rans every year from 1996 to 2004 and then again in 2006. That was the only Emmy won by "Late Night" out of 29 nominations, including two more bids for writing in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, the "Late Night" writers lost to the team behind "The Colbert Report" and in 2009 to the scribes for "The Daily Show."
Prior to "The Daily Show" owning the series category, "Late Show With David Letterman" won that award five years in a row beginning in 1998. The CBS late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman has competed in the top Emmy race every year since its debut season in 1994, when it won. In addition, it has taken three technical Emmys for a total haul of nine awards out of 64 nominations.
Compare that to the track record of Jay Leno, who returned to the "Tonight Show" in March. While he may be beating long-time rival David Letterman once again in the ratings, don't expect Leno to contend anytime soon at the Emmys. After all, he and the show were snubbed by the Emmys for his (first) farewell tour last year. The last nomination for Leno's edition of the NBC staple was in 2005, when he contended for the now-defunct individual performance prize, losing to Tony Awards host Hugh Jackman.
During Leno's 17 years at the helm, this NBC late-night staple won just one Emmy for best variety comedy series. That was way back in 1995, and the last of the show's nine nods in that race was in 2003. Add in three technical wins and the first incarnation of the "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" managed to take home just four Emmys out of 40 nominations. While Letterman -- who won four consecutive Emmys as part of the writing team on the original "Late Night" beginning in 1984 -- has been a perennial writing nominee for "Late Show," Jay Leno and his team of gag writers were snubbed by the Emmys for the entire run of his first version of the "Tonight Show."
Photo: Conan O'Brien at the 2007 Prime-time Emmy Awards. Credit: Fox.