updated 01/14/2010 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 01/14/2010 AT 9:30 AM ET
The most unloved name on the Internet today? Not a misbehaving starlet, but media giant NBC.
Outrage toward the network and its decision to put not-ready-for-primetime host Jay Leno back in his old Tonight Show 11:35 p.m. timeslot and to bump Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show to just after midnight – has officially gone viral. Tens of thousands of fans have taken to the Internet to show their support for the spurned O’Brien, who spoke out publicly against NBC’s decision this week.
Abetting the crusade, according to The New York Times, Los Angeles artist Mike Mitchell sketched a heroic image of O’Brien in front of the American flag, his trademark red hair shaded an even brighter orange. Recalling one of the talk-show host’s nicknames, Mitchell added the slogan “I’m with CoCo” to the image, which is now a viral sensation, inspiring pro-Conan Facebook groups and making Team Conan a top Tweet.
The NBC debacle provided plenty of fuel for Wednesday’s late-night talk show circuit, too. “You thought the Gosselins were screwed up?” Leno asked his audience during his monologue Wednesday night.
Leno didn’t shy away from criticizing his bosses, either, saying that instead of calling the war in Afghanistan “another Vietnam,” critics are calling it “another NBC.”
O’Brien told his Wednesday audience: “Hosting The Tonight Show has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me – and I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too.”
O’Brien also had some kind words for his online army: “I’m getting a lot of support out there, especially from an online group calling themselves ‘Team Conan.’ It’s very exciting – it’s the first time in my life I’ve been on a team where I wasn’t picked last.”
Not that everyone is hopping on his bandwagon. New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, in Thursday’s paper, advises the TV host to “Stop whining,” given that he’s “a fabulously wealthy, incredibly lucky (and unfunny) man who’s carrying on as if the world owes him TV time at 11:35 p.m. It’s about the ratings, stupid.”
She adds, “If Conan can’t deliver, move to midnight. Or, don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out.”