I read an interesting piece in last week’s (February 1st 2010) New Yorker on The Tonight Show debacle. But I thought the author of the piece, Nancy Franklin, touched on but did not expand upon one part of this equation that in the future is going to be a very big deal.
First let’s start with the “facts” (as we know them).
1. I suspect very few people who are fans of Conan are also fans of Leno and vice versa. I’m sure there’s a crossover but I’m willing to bet it’s small.
2. Conan’s audience skews young and Leno’s audience skews much older.
So here’s the thing, Leno going back to The Tonight Show is going to work fine for a while…maybe even for 10 years…because his fans will come back and the show will default back to the way it was before…fine. But what happens in 10 years? Maybe I’m overestimating the grudge holding ability of the Conan fans (my grudge holding abilities are practically infamous in my land) but I don’t think those young fans are coming back…EVER.
I think they’re sufficiently pissed at the way Conan has been treated (there has been picketing, ad campaigns, facebook groups, you name it in support of Conan and horror at NBC’s behavior), that in 10 years when Leno is ready to be replaced (because he’s even older than he freaking is now) there will be nobody that NBC can put in that Tonight Show chair (short of Jon Stewart perhaps) that we would come back to watch, just based on principle.
Now, I’m not the best fan of late night talk shows anyway. I’m not a consistent viewer, watching only when the mood strikes, or when I remember to. And I generally feel about late night talk shows the way I feel about SNL – that there are always brilliant little bits and moments – but that I’m not willing to sit through an hour of average (and sometimes below average) entertainment for those small gems – especially when I can pick them up on the news websites the following day if they were good anyway. I just am not willing to invest in them consistently. I also have the problem of being both a Conan fan and a Letterman fan, which worked fine until Conan took over The Tonight Show, because I didn’t have to pick. I tried to watch more Conan once I had the option (and misfortune to have to choose between them) because I felt he needed the support since he was new to the timeslot. However I never watched Leno. The dude is just not funny to me. And because of that it hurts NBC not a whit for me to vow not to watch Leno, because I never did and never would have.
However, I CAN vow to never watch The Tonight Show again**
So in the end I think this is more short-sighted BS on the part of NBC. Sure, this might work now and they’ll get their “safe” Leno hosted Tonight Show back, but in the long run, they’ve shot themselves in the foot. Good riddance I say. Perhaps we should have just let Johnny Carson take the show with him when he left…it’d certainly be more respectful of his legacy than where we ended up.
As for you specifically Leno, while I don’t think that you are specifically to blame for all of this, your handling of it has been proof that I was right all along to dislike you. I had barely any respect for you left after your writer’s strike behavior in 2007, but that little I had left has been killed dead dead dead. You now seem like a ridiculous comic book villain to me. Congratulations idiot.
* Credits: Jack Ziegler cartoon taken from The New Yorker 2/8/10 edition
** Again, with the exception of a Jon Stewart Tonight Show host – which I don’t even want because I prefer him where he is – but I think Conan would understand and forgive me for going back on my proclamations in that one scenario.
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