conan o'brien

In 2004, the announcement on the 50th anniversary of The Tonight Show of the eventual retirement of Jay Leno and the annointment of Conan O’Brien as host in that well-known TV seat piqued my curiosity about the powers of mundane astrology.  Would such a change be represented in the horoscope of a television show?  And guess what?  Astrology works!

For those non-insomiacs who missed the story last September, here’s a quick recap.  As reported in the New York Times, last summer, O’Brien was disappointment about Leno’s 5-year contract renewal and so, he let it be known that he would entertain offers for the more popular 11:35 PM slot from other networks as he nears the end of his own contract in January 2006.  NBC, unwilling to lose the likeable host and risk another embarrassing brouhaha (as when they passed over David Letterman in favor of Leno at Johnny Carson’s retirement in 1991,* losing him then to CBS), they quickly negotiated a guaranteed two-year minimum deal with O’Brien for the prized position on The Tonight Show, to begin in 2009 when Leno retires.

Now here’s the astrology.  The inaugural run of The Tonight Show took place on September 27, 1954, from New York City at 11:30 PM EST. 

At first sight of the show’s natal horoscope, the obvious transits that tell this story include the recent pass of Saturn over the Ascendant (while negotiations were being made in the face of O’Brien’s threatening word to leave the network).  Such a transit marks the end of one era and the beginning of a new era, more often than not, with a rude awakening.

By the time the news went public, Saturn was passing over the natal Jupiter and Uranus in Cancer, and square to Neptune and Mercury in Libra.  Those are the very planets that describe the show as a popular, show-bizzy talk show.  And although the show may have lost its bite from the original in favor of more trendy guests and humor, let’s not forget how ground-breaking and risqué it was in the 50’s and 60’s when late night television was merely test pattern hum on the only two other networks and some small town local stations.  This transit, by the way, continues through the spring of 2005, so let’s see what else develops for the show.

Chiron-lovers should note the significance of natal Chiron in Capricorn forming a T-square with these aforementioned planets, and the announcement was made in the midst of the show’s Chiron Return.  Perhaps this signifies all the care to prevent wounded egos as well as memories of wounds from ’91 on the Chiron opposition.  Chiron might also represent the mentoring aspect of all the hosts of this show; they have certainly launched the careers of many popular entertainers.

As we would expect in a mundane occurrence, the surrounding eclipses had some say too.  Preceding the announcement, this same T-square was hit by the Solar Eclipse of April 19, 2004, at 29 Aries, closely conjunct O’Brien’s Sun, indicating a new era for him (and ironically, opposite Carson’s Sun, resurrecting his memory in the public eye).  The Lunar Eclipse of May 4th at 14 Scorpio (involving a station of Neptune at 15 Aquarius) hit the chart’s natal Venus and, more importantly, its MC at 29 Pisces 58 on the cardinal axis.  The MC represents the star of the show as well as the show’s reputation and future.  This most sensitive degree of the zodiac at such an integral part of the horoscope also explains the pioneering and legendary qualities of the show.

To some account, too, are the eclipses shortly following the announcement.  Most notable is the Lunar Eclipse of October 27, 2004, at 5 Taurus, opposite the show’s natal Saturn (representing a change in direction and leadership) and conjunct Leno’s Sun, marking the beginning of the end of an era for him.  Just that all these eclipses are so prominent suggests the inevitability of these changes and their stir in the show business headlines.

For mundane techniques lovers, look at the charts of the surrounding ingresses too.  In the chart of the preceding Cancer Ingress, Mars hits this T-square from 28 Cancer and the Ingress Moon at 4 Leo serves as an entertainment industry “publicity trigger” for the aforementioned Lunar Eclipse.  The Libra Ingress is conjunct Jupiter at the critical degree of 29 Virgo (ruling the natal MC, but positioned in opposition to it), another signal of the end of an era.

Most surprisingly apt, however, are the chart’s secondary progressions for 2004 and 2009.  In the period of the announcement, the Progressed Ascendant was conjunct Pluto and the Progressed Sun was just about to square it; and Progressed Jupiter (again, traditional ruler of the natal MC) turned retrograde at 29 Cancer, another anoretic degree!

In 2009, when the transfer actually place, the Progressed Ascendant will have just shifted into Virgo, the Progressed MC enters into the square with Pluto, and the Sun will be progressed to 29 Scorpio 20!  Beginnings and ends, beginnings and ends.

Interestingly, Progressed Moon will be at 23 Libra on that infamous T-Square, and in the balsamic phase in relation to the Progressed Sun for O’Brien’s two-year minimum guarantee, representing a slow start for the new host and perhaps an uncertain long-term future with the show. 

Of course, it’s impossible to do a mundane study, brief as this is, on The Tonight Show, without mentioning more of Johnny Carson.  Although he is its third host (after Steve Allen and Jack Paar), he built the show; the show built him; he used the show to build the careers of some of our most popular entertainers, i.e., Bette Midler and Robin Williams; and the show built a TV genre (not to mention, an industry) around late night comedy.

The synastry between the natal charts of Carson and the show tells it all.  Carson’s Sun closely conjoins the show’s Mercury in Libra.  Talk about the King of late night comedy!  A talk show legend!  Of course, it helps to have these planets involved in a configuration with the glamorous Neptune, Uranus, Lord of the Air Waves, and an exalted Jupiter.

Carson has his own natal T-square with a Libra Mars as the apex between Pluto in Cancer and his Moon and Jupiter in Capricorn in the cadent houses, making for a dynamic conversationalist and a master of words, wit, intellect and charm.  This configuration sits along the show’s opposition of Ascendant and Mars, forms a close square to the show’s natal Moon at 17 Libra; and the show’s nodal axis is not far from the connection too, suggesting the powerful enmeshment of their reputations as well as a deep bond of familiarity with the public.

More notably, we see Saturn’s influence on their relationship.  There was certainly a karmic story between Carson and the show as an entity.  The show’s natal chart at 7 Scorpio conjoins Carson’s Ascendant, Mercury and Saturn, which run from 5 Scorpio to 14; and then, the show’s natal Venus is 18 Scorpio in its 5th house.  This is a very compelling combination of planets, certainly symbolic of the kind of show it was, the sexual innuendo humor it was known for, the well-known love-hate relationship there was between him and the show, the amazing amounts of money involved from so many perspectives, the everlasting influence it has on late night television, as well as the finality in the parting of their ways.  Is it too dramatic to say only the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, also from the land of Scorpio, can only rival the intensity of this Carson-Tonight Show connection from the 60’s through the 80’s?

Carson’s reign lasted for a Saturn Return in the sign that represents broadcasting.  He started on October 1, 1962, with transiting Saturn at 4 Aquarius, and ended on May 22, 1992, with Saturn transiting 18 Aquarius, obviously in square to all those natal Scorpio planets. 

Here’s another interesting note about their parting.  The Ascendant of his very last show was 17 Capricorn, just opposite the show’s natal Ascendant, and Uranus and Neptune were making their famous conjunction at that very degree at that very time!  This symbolism is powerful for the development of all forms of television since 1992.

On an interesting, though lesser, note about Saturn, Leno, a self-admitted workaholic will be having his second Saturn Return in Virgo in 2009.  In fact, his retirement statement ended with his joke, “Plus, I promised my wife, Mavis, I would take her out for dinner before I turned 60.”

Although I do hope the astro-TV trivia was entertaining (and there are even more astrological tidbits to find in the charts), the purpose of this article, of course, was not to praise the contributions of The Tonight Show to American culture.  Rather, it was meant to show that mundane astrology is more than, well, mundane, or just a tool in studying the charts of nations and politicos.  And more importantly, this astrological example is a testament to the fact that anything that has a beginning, has a chart, and that chart will help us understand the nature of that entity, be it a person, a pet, an event, or even a late night television show, why it happened and what became of it.

*Although Carson’s last show actually took place on May 22, 1992, the announcement of his retirement was made in May, 1991.

Birth Data:

The Tonight Show, September 27, 1954, 11:30 PM EST, New York City, NY

Johnny Carson, October 23, 1925, 7:15 AM CST, Corning, IA

Jay Leno, April 28, 1950

Conan O’Brien, April 18, 1963