No, no Coco: As Leno decides to step down, Conan is once again forgotten for Fallon

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It’s been three years and everyone involved has moved on, but when NBC announced last week that Jimmy Fallon was taking over the host of “The Tonight Show,” one person came to mind: Conan O’Brien.

It’s been hard not to think of the red-haired late night host on TBS after the recent news. After all, O’ Brien was forced out of his position as the host of “The Tonight Show” after Jay Leno used his influence to regain his throne in 2010. Now three years later and facing declining ratings, NBC is finally moving on from Leno.

It was a move the network, which has struggled with abysmal ratings the last few years, should have stuck with when it made it originally. The network’s experiment with Leno moving to 9 p.m. flopped big time. Instead of using that as a sign that Leno needed to go, NBC bent over backwards for Leno to take over his old post at the Tonight Show.

That left O’Brien as the odd man out. The network removed O’Brien, who was struggling in the ratings department, before he could truly catch on with a demographic that was largely unfamiliar with him. According to the New York Times, when O’Brien was the host of “The Tonight Show,” he averaged about two million less viewers than Leno.

However, when Leno returned he initially suffered a huge ratings drop. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Leno averaged 3.8 million viewers in the summer he returned. The numbers were a far cry from the five million he averaged in 2006.

Leno did eventually rebound in a strong 2011, but where was O’Brien’s chance to rebound? O’Brien never got his chance to connect with the audience the way other late night hosts did. Even Jimmy Fallon rebounded after initial negative reviews of his debut with critics favoring him now.

NBC picking Fallon to be Leno’s successor was actually the right move. It’s too late for O’Brien to move back to NBC. Fallon has established himself as a late night talk host that could follow in Leno and Carson‘s footsteps.

Fallon shed the awkward-boyish charm that originally plagued him. His dead-air pauses and laughing into the camera before finishing the jokes are gone. Fallon appeals to teens largely because of his on-air charm and the skits that accompany each show.

With NBC so desperate to regain a positive image, it only makes sense that Fallon is being positioned to finally take over Leno’s spot. Fallon can bring in a new audience while also keeping the viewers who actually enjoyed Leno.

The problem, however, was that O’Brien did too.