See You In September, Conan

So the Late Night TV madness is nearly over.  Conan O’Brien has signed a deal to leave NBC and has two episodes of the Tonight Show left.

Conan lets the beard grow during the writers' strike.

I can imagine the last few weeks haven’t been good for Conan, but as a viewer, he’s done of his most entertaining and funniest material since taking over the Tonight Show.

During the ’07-’08 writers’ strike, Conan was very funny, as he could do pretty much whatever he wanted.  It’s a similar situation now–he’s not being restrained by the whims of focus groups, and has gone back to doing some of the little things that he cut out of his act since moving to 11:30, like the String Dance and allowing Andy to sit on the couch.  They may be little things, but it felt like he stopped doing them to make the network happy.  Well, now, he’s being himself.  I hope he takes this approach wherever he ends up on September 1 (and I hope he takes Andy, Max and everyone else with him).

Meanwhile, with the exception of three shows, I refuse to watch anything on NBC, which is a big step for me, as they were my first employer back when I wanted to work in television.  But with their jettisoning of Conan to move the talentless Jay Leno back to 11:30, they’ve lost my support.

Actually, with Lost ending and a baby on the way, I’m going to have to re-evaluate how much television I watch anyway.  Good thing I have a lot of quality shows like Sledge Hammer!, the Greatest American Hero and Seinfeld on Lost.

And in September, I’ll be sure to DVR Conan.  Wherever he ends up.


Conan’s Not Gonna Take It Anymore

Embroiled in a controversy caused by NBC’s scheduling ineptitude, Tonight Show host (for now) Conan O’Brien says he’s not moving his 11:35 time slot for anyone, including the large-chinned talentless comedian responsible for the peacock network’s ratings nosedive:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. 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. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Conan is handy at wielding the batI have to admit that I’m surprised and happy at the stance Conan is taking here.  Surprised that he’s standing his ground and essentially daring NBC to fire him if it really wants to move Jay Leno back to 11:35.  Happy because he’s sticking up for himself- he didn’t cause the mess left by the Talentless Jay Leno Show at 10:00, so why should he have to move so NBC can keep Jay Leno on the air?

NBC originally said it viewed the Talentless Jay Leno Show as a 52-week experiment.  Well, it hasn’t been close to that long.  It’s understandable that the network wants to shake things up to improve ratings.  But as Conan says, the Tonight Show wouldn’t be the Tonight Show airing a half hour later with another similar show airing right before it.

That’s called Late Night, and Conan paid his dues there for 16 years (and never even got a 15th anniversary special for it).

Still, if there’s a positive out of this (besides the principled stance Conan’s taken here), it’s that Conan could go someplace that wants and values him.  As’s TV Critic Alan Sepinwall writes:

a “Tonight Show” that airs tomorrow, and after another late night comedy show, is “The Tonight Show” in name only, nothing more. It is NBC’s attempt to hold onto both Jay and Conan no matter what, to avoid giving Conan his money, or his ability to jump to Fox (whose executives, though they couched their comments to critics on Monday in careful legal niceties, seemed very pleased by the possibility of getting to start a late night franchise with the guy), and to pretend like the whole split-the-baby strategy wasn’t a massive miscalculation in the first place.

It was a miscalculation that evolved into a disaster.  Sure, NBC has two spots for three people (nevermind the fact that two of those people have contracts for those spots).  And regardless of the decision, the network knew it would upset one of those people with its decision.  But with this decision, it’s dumping the future and letting it find its way into the arms of a rival.  It’s another wonderful move from NBC.

Well Conan, It Was Nice While It Lasted

Sometimes I feel out of touch with the rest of society.

For example, I’ve never understood the appeal of Jay Leno.

The comedic stylings of Conan O’Brien are more my speed, and I’ve been a quasi-regular watcher of Conan’s for the past 15 years.  When The Civee and I first got our DVR two years ago, Conan’s Late Night was the first show that got added to the record list.  And when Conan took over the hallowed Tonight Show last June, I couldn’t have been happier.  As Conan took over Late Night, Jay moved to 10:00 and the once great NBC saw the ratings for its last hour of primetime drop off a cliff.

Well, it looks like NBC is putting the Jay Leno Show (or, as it’s known in my house, the Talentless Jay Leno Show) out of it’s misery.  But the effects may not be good for Conan.  From the New York Times:

NBC executives held discussions with both Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien Thursday about the future of the network’s late-night lineup. And while executives said that no final decision has been made, they did not deny that the network is considering moves that could include returning Mr. Leno to his old job as host of “The Tonight Show.”

NBC executives said a decision would definitely not be announced Thursday but did not deny a report posted by the website TMZ that NBC was considering making the switch and replacing Mr. O’Brien at “Tonight” with Mr. Leno.

So what would they do with Conan? They can’t exactly move him and his crew back across the country and give him his old show back because that would upset Jimmy Fallon.

Back in the day, CBS had a reputation as the old folks’ network and NBC was cutting edge.  Kinda sad to see the network that brought you the A-Team, Knight Rider and Seinfeld fall like this.  Sure, they’ve got things like The Office, Chuck and Conan (still under contract), but this is just digging an even deeper hole.

Don’t worry, fellow tall pasty one, I’ll still watch ya.