NBC’s Big Mistake

NBC’s Big Mistake


Hey gang, I know it’s been a while for me. I still visit The Donk everyday — because where else am I going to get top-notch discussion without all of the ridiculous name-calling — I just haven’t posted in quite some time. For that, I apologize. Although, it’s not like my writing has been missed — there are some really great contributors here (I’m looking at you, Nancy, mw, donar, Frank and The Man himself). Okay, enough chat…

So, I have been following the back-and-forth between NBC, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien (and every other late-night host) for the past several days. I had a phone conversation with a friend yesterday and together we came to an overwhelming consensus: NBC is stupid.

I am old enough (and fortunate enough) to remember when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show back in the day (which was a Wednesday by the way). Carson hosted the show for what, a billion years? (actually: 30) It seems to me that the host of a long-running show such as TTS eventually becomes the something of a de facto host for a certain generation. Carson was the host for much of the time that my grandparents watched Tonight.

After Johnny retired, Jay Leno took over the reins and sat at the desk for 17 seasons. By my aforementioned ‘de facto host’ rule, Leno has been the host for the Baby Boomers (my parents and folks between the ages of 40 and 65?). Last year, when Leno passed the baton, presumably Conan O’Brien would be the host for my generation (Gen X, Gen Y, Internet, ‘N’, Millenials, et al).

As my friend exclaimed to me over the telephone, “Conan is ‘our’ generation’s Carson or Leno! NBC is losing an opportunity for establishing a long-term brand in Conan O’Brien.” Indeed. I cannot see myself at age 50, sitting on the couch with TPW, and laughing at another ‘Jaywalking’ bit. For my money, ‘In The Year 2000‘ is much more funny.

The National Broadcasting Company is indeed missing an opportunity to carry The Tonight Show franchise to a higher level: the next generation. Add to that this little nugget… the only person who looks good in all of this is Conan O’Brien. Think about that.

1) NBC looks disorganized because they are shuffling hosts around after only a seven-month ‘trial’.

2) Jay Leno looks terrible because — rightly or wrongly — it appears as if he was displeased with his 10 o’clock show and now is turning around and asking for demanding that he get his old show back.

All the while, Conan looks like the proverbial Little Guy on whom the big corporation and big star are picking.

Lastly I’ll just say it: I think Conan is funnier than Leno and Letterman combined (Kimmel definitely has his moments). His nerdy appeal (schtick?) resonantes with me because, well, I’m something of a nerd myself (shocker). Seriously though; what other late-night host would put his show up for sale on Craig’s List:

Yeah. That’s how he rolls.

No matter how this fiasco ends, I’ll be firmly in the column supporting Conan. Here endeth my lesson on late-night-shenanigans. Now we return you to your regularly-scheduled Donklephant programming.

  • Chris

    I completely agree, but part of me wonders if this is all a scam to get more people to watch. Because even if it’s not, it still is. I never thought leno was very funny, he’s at his best when interacting with his guests, his standup was mediocre at best.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    I lost interest in all of them in recent years, just didn’t find any of them all that entertaining. But since this kerfuffle started, I can’t get enough of it. I keep flipping between the Letterman and Conan monologues because I want to hear both, then catch Kimmel too. They’ve never been so funny as when they are talking about themselves and slamming NBC. I guess I have to get a TIVO so I don’t miss anything.

  • http://thepurplecenter.blogspot.com/ John Burke

    Conan sucks — big time. Never has a late noght comic been so unfunny. As soon as he took over Tonight, its ratings from Jay and Johnny levels began to plunge — and not just among your grandparents’ generation; he lost across the board including among 18-24 demo.

    I suppose he’s an acquired taste — which mean he was just fine at 12:35 when hardly anyone with a job could watch. NBC’s mistake was in thinking he could appeal to anyone else.

  • http://thepajamapundit.com/ The Pajama Pundit

    Great point Chris — it’s definitely helped everyone’s ratings.

    mw, I agree wholeheartedly. I think that my fascination with all-things-late-night is due to the exposure of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Tonight Show (and NBC). Hearing Conan (and nearly everyone else) rip NBC apart is the proverbial icing on the cake.

    JB, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think Conan is hilarious. Granted, there are bits of his that fall short (I’m looking at you Masturbating Bear). But on the whole I think Conan is much funnier than Jay. I guess you could say that I have acquired the taste…

  • Mike A.

    I think it’s all Obama’s fault.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    Now that you mention it, it is hard to see it any other way. But then, he can also solve it in classic Obama style… throw a billion dollars at it.

  • Agnostick

    Correction, PajamaPundit: “After Johnny retired, against Carson’s suggestion that David Letterman get his show, Jay Leno took over the reins and sat at the desk for 17 seasons.”

    As far as I’m concerned, this is Karma making a return trip to roll over a few feet. There’s a particular reason that, in his retirement years, Carson faxed jokes to Letterman… made cameo appearances on Letterman’s show.

    There’s another part of this mess that I’ve been… well… savoring.

    Last year, NBC aired a couple of episodes of what looked to be a promising new show. Then, when they got all hopped up on Lenosergic acid diethylamide, and fooled themselves into thinking they could save all this money with primetime stupidity… they just canceled this fledgling drama, along with who knows how many others.

    Now, TNT has picked up this series. They’ve had some pretty good success with things like “The Closer,” “Leverage,” and “Men Of A Certain Age.” I’ve remarked to my wife that if “Southland” garners even moderate success, I’d drop it right into the Thursday 10p/9p slot, just to give ’em the finger!

    NBC has five primetime hours to fill. There’s only so much reality and “Dateline” that people will stomach. Execs are going to have to eat canned Spam lunches, drink tap water, and take out their own trash until this ship rights itself. What NBC needs right now is “Hill Street Blues,” “Homicide,” “L.A. Law,” and a couple other hours that will at least hold their own against the procedural juggernaut of CBS.

    Letterman wins by default. Oh, and the fact that he’s funnier, night-for-night, doesn’t hurt, either.

    [email protected]

  • Jim S

    What NBC and lots of others have apparently forgotten is that while the men who built the foundation of the Tonight Show could do schtick, none of them had been big stand up comics. Not Paar, not Allen and not Carson. They should really try putting some thought into what makes a good host. And you know, the show was also a half hour longer in its heyday and had a better variety of guests. Also, you had both Allen and Carson as masters of skit comedy, something Leno really sucks at. Remember seeing Carl Sagan on the show with Carson? There are several big time scientists who could hold their own in that format. They have books and TV shows to plug, too. They’d definitely be better than “Jaywalking”.

  • http://centristcoalition.com/blog/ kranky kritter

    I can’t recall the last time I watched any of these shows. In the days before TMZ et al, they arguably mattered as the main promotional outlet for stars promoting their new stuff.

    But now? C’mon. Further, let’s not fail to notice that this peeing contest was about time slots, which are well on their way to not mattering, as the fraction of folks who can watch when they want to just keeps growing.

    If O’brien is smart, he’ll take the sports guy’s suggestion and go to comedy central and slot in behind stewart and colbert. I think OBrien is a schticky weenie myself, but he has a better opportunity to be edgy and funny later at night. For some reason O’brien thinks the tonight show at 1130 holds similar prestige to what it once did. It doesn’t. The mainstream itself is smaller, and the tonight show captures less of it than ever,

    The primary reason I ever watched Leno or Letterman or their ilk was that nothing else was on at 1130 or 1230. That was a 20th century problem.

    The only thing that’s still the same is that bland still delivers the most eyeballs of folks still awake after the 11 o’clock news. The rating demonstrate that Leno is perceived as a more desirable soporific. End of story for NBC.

  • http://www.vastvariety.net Vast Variety

    I’m with CoCo

    This is mostly NBC execs screwing up, live and on the air.

  • http://peopleforandfromthepeople.com fredygotfranked smith

    nbc sucks for releasing arguably the best tonight show host in history, i faithlessly watched is gut knawing, but scratch grabbing, sphincter clintching act night after night delightfully before he was ‘annointed’ to the cursed tonigth show…maybe leno;s jaw will fall of from a long list of fake joke and an overload of doritos =}

  • http://www.michaeledits.com Michael LaRocca

    …and Shelley Long still wonders why she left CHEERS.

    …and Joan Rivers wishes SHE had taken over for Johnny after all.