It's the end of a bizarre odyssey that started with NBC moving Jay Leno to 10 p.m. and Conan O'Brien taking Leno's spot as "Tonight Show" host. The disastrous results are well-known. NBC's primetime ratings plummeted. O'Brien drew three million fewer viewers in Leno's old time slot. The drop in ratings led to scrambling at NBC, which eventually ended O'Brien's "Tonight Show" run and reinstated Leno on his old seat. O'Brien then left NBC in a huff, balking at being moved to a later time to accommodate Leno's return to "Tonight."
However, with the announcement this week that O'Brien's talk show will air in George Lopez's old time slot at 11:00 p.m., some people may be wondering, "Is Lopez the new Conan?"
How is Lopez handling the changes at TBS?
"Early Show" co-anchor Julie Chen discovered he's not just satisfied with the deal -- he helped make it happen. She sat down with Lopez on the set of "Lopez Tonight," where he revealed the pivotal role he played in persuading O'Brien to make the move.
Lopez told Chen he was called into a closed-door meeting in which a TBS executive told him, "'I've got this crazy idea; let me know what you think.'"
Lopez said, "He said, 'I want to make a play for Conan.' And I said, 'I welcome that." '
The next step was showing a skeptical O'Brien, who has turned to Twitter and a comedy act since taking his temporary leave from television, that this marriage would be better than the one with Leno at NBC.
Lopez needed to persaude O'Brien directly.
"I was asked to set up a call," Lopez said. "So I called him Wednesday afternoon and he picked up the phone. It was done directly."
Was he nervous?
"Not at all," Lopez replied, adding that they joked during the call. "First of all, I told him my biggest concern was that I had to hire a standards and practices person that could understand bad words in Spanish. Conan said, 'I want to learn how to cuss in Spanish.' I said, 'I'll teach you.'"
As for Lopez having to move his show back an hour to midnight to make room for O'Brien at 11, Conan was worried about appearances.
Chen observed, "You mentioned that he wanted to make sure that you didn't think he was doing to you what Leno had done to him."
Lopez replied, "I think the term is 'Leno-ing' me!"
What is "Leno-ing," exactly?
Lopez said, "(It's) someone who appears to be supportive, but is out for himself, and would use you as a stepping place for a destination."
"Whoa," Chen responded.
Lopez said, "Ouch."
Lopez says he sees this as a giant opportunity for both himself and O'Brien. While Lopez's audience of 1.2 million viewers can't compete with Leno's 4.7 million "Tonight Show" viewers, he feels it will be a chance to establish a new brand of comedy on cable TV.
He even joked on his show, "You know what, a Latino and a red head, it has worked before -- Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball!"
He's even given the duo a name: "LoCo," which is short for Lopez and Coco. The name is a play on the nickname "Coco" that O'Brien earned for a Twitter sketch he performed early in his stint as "Tonight Show" host.
He added, "Or now, there's 'loconuts,' which are people who are crazy about the idea that Conan and I are together."
And what does "Team LoCo" mean?
"Team LoCo is going to mean a broader younger demographic. Thirty-three is the age of my demographic. For 'The Tonight Show,' I believe it's more early bird special, more softer, easier to digest food."
Lopez made other big late night news this week with speculation that he will land the first interview with his longtime friend Sandra Bullock about her troubled marriage to Jesse James. But Lopez called those "rumors."
"That is not, that is not true," he said.
How is Bullock holding up? "I believe," Lopez responded, "that she is doing fine. I would not have had an opportunity to create in this business if not for Sandra. So, aside from anything that's happened to her in personal life, I've always loved her and I'm a huge fan of hers. And she's strong and she'll be OK."
Chen reported O'Brien has indicated his new show will be produced in Los Angeles, possibly on the very same soundstage where he shot "The Tonight Show." While details of his deal with TBS haven't been released, Chen said O'Brien owns part of the show.
Chen added that Lopez will get a renewal of his show in the deal. She said, "He says he will be back, and he won't be sitting in the audience."
But Lopez joked that he does see one downside to the new arrangement. Chen said, "He says that people across America are going to have serious issues with this line-up because of HD-TV. He says, with Conan O'Brien being so light and him being so dark, there's going to be color corrections everywhere until they're eventually the same color."