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TBS touts Conan O'Brien in edgy Emmys campaign

June 8, 2010 | 11:48 am

Conan O'Brien Emmy Awards TBS NBC Tonight Show Jay Leno Ad 1 Last month, Conan O'Brien surprised awards watchers when he submitted his ill-fated edition of "The Tonight Show" for Emmy consideration. NBC did not include the show on its campaign DVD, opting instead for the return of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." However, O'Brien's Emmy bid got a boost Tuesday when his new employer, TBS, ran several sassy "For Your Consideration" ads in Variety.

As Turner exec Steve Koonin explained in a statement: "Conan’s great work in 2009 and 2010 deserves Emmy consideration. We’re very excited to have him join TBS later this year." O'Brien inked a deal in April with the cabler for a Monday-Thursday 11 p.m. show set to debut Nov. 8.

That time slot is currently filled by a talker hosted by George Lopez. Lopez welcomed being bumped to the midnight hour if it meant securing O'Brien as a lead-in. "Lopez Tonight" is also among the 27 variety comedy musical series contending on the official Emmy Awards ballot. Choices range from "Attack of the Show" to "X-Play" (both of which run on cable channel G4). Voters are instructed to: "VOTE FOR NO MORE THAN TEN achievements in this category that you have seen and feel are worthy of nomination. (More than ten votes in this category will void all votes in this category.)"

Screen shot 2010-06-08 at 12.13.09 PM

Emmy voting began June 4 and runs until the 21st of the month. Nominees will be announced July 8, and the winners will be revealed Aug. 29 during the NBC telecast of the 62nd Emmy Awards. Hosting the kudos will be Jimmy Fallon, O'Brien's successor at "Late Night."

While Fallon's first season at the helm of the 12:35 a.m. gabfest made it onto the NBC disc, also missing from that mailer was Jay Leno's disastrous foray into prime time ("The Jay Leno Show"). As Curt King, senior vice president of Universal Media Studios, explained at the time: "In the DVD campaign packages, typically we do not include shows that aren't returning."

It took O'Brien a full decade of hosting "Late Night" before the show landed its first Emmy bid in this category in 2003. It contended unsuccessfully for five years, always losing to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," which O'Brien soon will 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."

Before "The Daily Show" owned 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.

During Leno's initial 17 years at the helm of the "Tonight Show," this NBC late-night staple won just one Emmy for best variety comedy series. That was in 1995, and the last of the show's nine nods in that race was in 2003. Add 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," Leno and his team of gag writers were snubbed by the Emmys for the entire run of his first version of the "Tonight Show."

Top photo: "For Your Consideration" ad for Conan O'Brien. Credit: TBS.

Bottom photo: Emmy Awards online ballot. Credit:

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The Emmy race may be tight...check out this wild animated video about Jay Leno.



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