Conan O'Brien takes his case to the 'People of Earth'

When he was in his own pitched battle with the NBC executive brain trust back in the 1990s, David Letterman kept it all under wraps. No one knew how desperately he pined for "The Tonight Show," and even though it should have been obvious to the lunkheads in Burbank, it wasn't, and Dave lost out to Jay Leno.

Now, on the verge of being delivered a similar setback — and as NBC is prepared again to hand the valuable 11:35 time slot to Jay Leno — Conan O'Brien is doing the one thing Dave failed to do: Take his case directly to the American public.

Earlier today he published an awesome letter to his fans, his detractors, and all the other inhabitants of this big blue marble. It is written out of a calm, controlled anger at NBC, and it exposes the National Broadcasting Company's mistakes for what they are: an attempt to destroy the grandest program in American TV history for short-term gain.

As brilliant as this letter is, it all but confirms something that Conan-watchers (like me) have been suspecting: NBC did not promise Conan the 11:35 show. It promised him "The Tonight Show" — at whatever time they feel like starting it. If they promised him 11:35, then they'd be in breach of contract right now. But they apparently didn't — so they have him over a barrel. And he is responding the only way he knows how.

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