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.”