Saturday, January 30, 2010

Enough Already!

I grew up watching Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show and for about a decade I watched Late Night with David Letterman.

I don’t watch much late night TV anymore and haven’t for quite a few years. Usually, because we watch local NBC news, I’d catch Jay Leno’s monologue by default. Sometimes he even had an interesting guest or Ross the Intern on. And, if it was Monday night, I might leave it on, and then go do something until “Headlines” came on. I have no particular allegiance to Leno but I can watch him.

As for his successor/predecessor Conan O’Brien, I don’t think he’s that funny. And I did give him a few tries on The Tonight Show, too. I barely survived the monologues. No one, Leno included, will ever be Carson.

I didn’t watch Leno’s appearance on Oprah and from what I’ve read, he didn’t really say anything that anyone who was listening five years ago didn’t already know. (If you couldn’t figure out by some of Leno’s comments and jokes immediately after the announcement years back about O’Brien taking over that Leno wasn’t in favor of it, you just weren’t listening.) And so, it’s been a long few weeks of finger-pointing and name-calling by all kinds of people online and even picketing at NBC.

Even before they officially said that O’Brien had said no and that Leno was coming back, I was increasingly annoyed by the people who acted like Leno was gunning for the job. That prompted me to comment on one of our local news sites, something I don’t often do. I tried to describe the situation in real-life terms and in a way that most of us could relate to:

Imagine that someone came to your office – where you were the top performer – and said, “Hey, we think you need to clear the way for Joe Blow here to take your spot by this date in the future because we don’t want Company X to steal Joe away from us.” Joe continues his other gig with the company and gleefully waits in the wings to take your spot.

Would YOU like that?

Then, you leave, Joe Blow replaces you. Your company doesn’t want you to go to another company either so they throw you a bone on a smaller, less lucrative project. It doesn’t go well. Meanwhile, things aren’t so good with Ole Joe either -- his results are only HALF AS GOOD as yours were. Customers are complaining about their results.

Realizing their error, the company decides to take part of the plum assignment away from Joe and give it back to you. Just part. Otherwise, it’s business as usual. You say you’re game if he is. But Joe? He’ll have none of it. You don’t lobby for the company offer but Joe acts like you do. And in the end, Joe walks … with a helluva lot of money, for doing absolutely nothing.

Yeah, if I were you, I’d try to find some spare time to feel sorry for Ole Joe, too.
When O’Brien ultimately declined and Leno took the desk back, the vilification of Leno got turned up on high. Why? All he did was reclaim his job – a job the network got him to begrudgingly give away in the first place. The network is guilty all the way around. NBC was ballsy to expect Leno to abdicate to begin with (after all, his ratings weren’t suffering, he was No. 1). It was equally ballsy to then use Leno as a pawn to try and “fix” the huge mistake they’d decided to make five years ago – to keep him from going elsewhere – only to play him against the guy they were once so anxious to replace him with! It was exceedingly crappy treatment of both Leno and O’Brien.

I thought it was admirable that O’Brien stuck it out for benefits for his staff. And, if his shows had been half as clever or amusing as his “People of Earth” letter, the opening salvo in the “CoCo” war, he may actually have gotten the viewership needed to appease the network and this whole mess would never have transpired.

But that didn’t happen.

Now the whole matter really is a moot point. O’Brien took his $30M+ and went home. After the winter games, Leno will be back. Get over it people. Move on with your lives. Just stop blaming Jay. There's more than enough blame to go around, most of which belongs to NBC.

U.S. unemployment is at 10 percent. The country’s short-term financial picture remains uncertain. People starve to death on the streets here every day. In Haiti, they’ve stopped looking for survivors, even though there probably are people still clinging to life beneath the rubble. And these are people whose lives weren't even that great BEFORE the earthquake ...

If you have to feel sorry for someone, I’m thinking Conan should be pretty far down on the list.


Karen Anne said...

None of them are Johnny Carson, the only late night guy who seemed to be funny without being mean.

Why S? said...

I'd l like them to just re-run the Jack Parr episodes.

I agree that too much energy has been devoted to this topic in light of the state of the world. But I do have one quibble. Conan could never have gotten the ratings the network needed to keep him because Leno lost the audience at 10. That scheduling decision was the biggest disaster of this whole fiasco. Once they decided to move Leno from The Tonight Show, they should have stuck to their decision and cut him loose. There was no way the primetime slot could have worked for anyone.

This is great, from Jimmy Kimmel:

sewwhat? said...

What NBC couldn't figure out, but I could in 5 minutes, is Jay appeals to an older crowd, and Conan appealed to a somewhat younger crowd. When Leno went on at 9, that meant we got out dose of the Tonight show and then went to bed, the heck with the 10 o'clock news. Then there weren't many left to watch Conan. I know that is what happened at my house. I try hard to enjoy Conan and his goofy adolescent humor in the Late show sometimes left me cold, and then he had to tone that down for the Tonight show, leaving him with little except his scintilating personality (gulp!), his red pompador and Andy Rickter to carry him through. No wonder he was cancelled. I agree with you 100% about people who vilify Leno for causing all of this--he DID NOT, he is what he is, and is funnier than Conan. Let's hope the world order is restored once this all occurs on March 1.

sewwhat? said...

And, sad for us all, Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon and Jack Paar are no longer with us--life goes on!

MonkeyGirl said...

At the risk of being villified myself, I will not be watching Leno when he comes back after the Olympics. I didn't really like him at 10:30 and abhored him at 9. I don't think Conan got a fair shake because he really had to tone down his brand of humor based on the time slot. No matter what the motivation was, then or now - I'm with Coco - take the money and run!

Anonymous said...

The thing is, Jay Leno had really bad ratings when he took over from Johnny Carson, too. This is something that keeps getting overlooked. It took him quite a while to get the ratings back up all while people were saying how he was going to fail. He did it, though, and he also had good lead in support from other shows. Conan didn't. It's not really the scenario you describe. You have to give Joe Blow far less time that is needed to get things going and also set him up to fail by not providing proper support and sending half his customers away with the guy he's replacing. I don't know if I blame Leno for wanting his spot back, but NBC didn't give Conan anywhere near the chance that they gave Leno when he started. They set him up to fail, and that's pretty crappy.

NV said...

Karen Anne -- Yeah. JC was the man, that's for sure.

Why -- You're right. They would have been better off just leaving things alone because if the big concern was losing CO, they've already done that, too!

sewwhat -- I had never seen Leno at 9, until the other night. Yeah, it was easy to see why that bombed. I do like him better than Conan, but not by much.

MG -- O'Brien got a raw deal but it paid off big in the end. I'll try to feel sorry for him when I get time. :-)

Jen -- I don't think you can blame Leno for wanting his spot back, though plenty of people have. This whole thing, from start to finish, has just been a big cock-up (to steal a phrase from across the pond.)

Anonymous said...