For years I watched the Tonight Show with Johnny. He had a formula that worked. He could be funny and serious, but he needed a sidekick announcer with a hearty laugh and a musician with flair to complete the package. They played off each other and it worked. Leno arrives and he too sticks with the formula. John and Kevin were not Ed and Doc, but they had their own unique act and it worked for years. I think if he would have stuck to the same old format he always had instead of trying to come up with something different for the prime time spot, it would have been more successful.
Then comes Conan. Did he have the formula? I don't think he did. I found myself watching him solely because I could not figure out why NBC hired him for that spot. The Andy Richter guy, what was that all about. Stretching out the name OBrian in his intro, and the goofy wave to Conan is not my idea of entertainment. He surely never said or did anything that was the least bit entertaining that I saw. I know he is the announcer who fires up the crowd before the taping of the show starts, but I can't even imagine him doing that well. Why was he even there? And Conan, he toned down his unfunny body gyrations fom the Late Show for the new show, but you could tell he really wanted to bust them loose. I remember watching him on Late night wondering how a guy could continue to embarrass himself every night. It was almost like he was trying too hard to be funny. IMO, he was the closest to being funny when the news came out that a change was in the air.
No matter what, he was let go with a big severance package because the ratings were just not there. They had to get out of his contract, and for it to happen in such a hurry must have meant NBC was really losing millions more than they paid him if he stayed in that spot. Some younger people might say I just can't appreciate his humor because I'm too old, well to that I say the ratings speak for themselves.