Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good for Conan

For me, "late-night" television means The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, sports, the Food Network, reruns of my favourite shows (Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Family Guy), movies, and pretty much anything else that isn't on U.S. network TV. Which is to say, no Letterman (or rarely), no Conan, no Fallon, no Ferguson, and, when he was hosting The Tonight Show, absolutely no Leno, whom I consider to be unfunny, irrelevant, given all his success, a sign of American cultural and comedic degradation, if not a Sign of the Apocalypse.

I used to watch Letterman, though, and still like him, and I used to like Conan in the later slot, back when he was in New York, back when he was edgy, or free to be, back before he ended up in dead-end California with the imperative to dumb himself down and appeal like a good corporate philistine to Middle America.

Well, as you may know by now, Leno, a failure in the 10-11 slot (if with a larger audience than the late-night shows), will soon be moving back to the 11:35 slot. The plan, it seemed, was to have Leno host a half-hour show with Conan and The Tonight Show, an entertainment touchstone for decades, following him at 12:05. To be sure, Conan wasn't doing well, losing badly to Letterman, where Leno was beating him, but the move seems to have been motivated largely by poor Leno ratings, relatively speaking, leading to grumbling from NBC affiliates unhappy that their late-night news shows weren't getting enough of a bump from prime time.

And so NBC, a terrible (and, seemingly, terribly run) network, has essentially pulled the rug out from under Conan without ever really giving him the chance to succeed, to build the iconic Tonight Show franchise back to its former glory as its host. And Leno, who was a threat, and who threatened, to move to another network, was appeased with a return to his former slot.

But Conan, understandably angry, isn't having any of it:

Conan O'Brien released a statement Tuesday saying that he no longer wanted to be the host of "The Tonight Show" on NBC if it appeared at 12:05 a.m.

Mr. O'Brien's brief run as host at 11:35 p.m. is to be cut short next month, as NBC decided to restore his predecessor, Jay Leno, to that time period. Mr. O’Brien has been growing increasingly upset in recent days about how he believes he was treated by NBC’s management.


In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Mr. O'Brien said, "I sincerely believe that delaying the 'Tonight Show' into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. 'The Tonight Show' at 12:05 simply isn't the 'Tonight Show.'"

He's right -- perhaps even about the significance of The Tonight Show -- and he shouldn't take such shoddy treatment from NBC, especially as it means that late-night viewers will be subjected to Leno once again.

I'm not a frequent watcher anymore, but I hope Conan moves to another network, ABC or more likely FOX, and gets back to doing what he does best regardless of when he comes on, whether it's up against Letterman and Leno or at midnight or even later. He's a funny, culturally and comedically relevant guy, and he belongs in the prime of late-night TV, not relegated to a post-Leno afterthought.

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  • I.e., liberal TV. Keeps you grounded in anger.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:03 AM  

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