Monday, January 18, 2010

Late Night Talk Show Smackdown!


I’ve been watching the Leno vs. O’Brien debacle with mixed feelings, mostly about Jay Leno, whom I’ve always admired. He’s a funny, personable guy, no doubt about it. But is he playing fair?

On the pro side:
Leno was Tonight Show host for many years and was very successful at it, whereas Conan O’Brien hasn’t made it to that level. Yet.

Leno is a known property, guaranteed to bring up the ratings. With Conan, the ratings dipped.

Leno will no doubt resume his spot as King of the Late Night Talk Shows, pushing David Letterman to second place once again.

On the con side:

Leno quit the Tonight Show.

Leno wasn’t a hit in an earlier slot.

Leno wants a “Do Over” during the Tonight Show time slot.

Okay, that’s my instant analysis, as they say on television. If I were an NBC exec or an ad sponsor, I’d be focused solely on the ratings, so the question of fair play would be a moot point.

If I were a sympathetic person, however, I would argue that Conan hasn’t had more than three months to establish his audience, which is the blink of an eye in TV years, and should be given more of a chance.

And did I mention that Leno voluntarily gave up his seat behind the Tonight Show desk?

So what is your verdict? Whether you’re a fan or not, did Leno play fair? Should he have been given that time slot back?

Oh, and one more TV-based question: Are you as eager for the return of LOST as I am?

Kate

26 comments:

Bookworm Princess said...

So I absolutely think Conan is a horrible comedian. I tried to watch his opening monologue a couple of times and it was a just painful experience.

With that said I do enjoy Leno's monologue and welcome that to come back. I haven't watched the full show since Johnny Carson was the host so I can't give any feedback on the entirety of the show.

What I do think is ridiculous is that NBC is going to shell out $30million to Conan for taking his time slot away. I mean really? For a time slot? And we wonder why corporate America is so screwed up!

On a side note, I have never watched LOST but I think I am glad to know it is the last season so maybe they can all be FOUND :-)

Maggie Sefton said...

You bet I'm anxious to see LOST return. As for the little drama going on between Leno and Conan, I think it's sad it had to happen. Everything seemed to be going great before NBC started messing with a good thing. Leno was dominating his time slot in the Tonight show & Conan was established in his late night time slot. Then, NBC messed everything up.

Personally, I don't watch Leno or Letterman anymore bec I've grown tired of both. Same old, same old. Boring. I love new faces, but I confess Conan never captured me, either. Actually, the only late/later night host that holds my interest and will keep me watching is the guy who follows Letterman, Craig Ferguson. I love his wild, crazed, off-the-wall sense of humor. It's so like mine. :)

Lindy said...

I watched Leno when he was on the Tonight Show and really liked him. He was ready to retire, but NBC pressured him to take the prime time slot which was a huge mistake. Though I have never liked Conan's... well, I have a hard time calling it humor, so whatever you call it, I don't think it's right for Leno to take it back. I have watched Conan since he said he's quiting, and he has been very funny. Why couldn't he have been that funny before all the bruhaha?

Jessica said...

I've never been a fan of Conan's but don't agree that his spot should just be yanked out from under just because Leno does better in his time slot. Although, $30million does a lot to ease the pain, right?? LOL I've never seen Lost...am I missing out on something great??

Lynn said...

I thought it was NBC that moved Leno -- told him he was doing the new show. I didn't think he went willingly. So yeah, I'm glad he's going back.

I never got into Lost.

Andrea C. said...

I think Leno is acting like a child. His project didn't go well, and now he wants his old job back. It shouldn't work this way. Granted Conan's ratings are not great, but it took the Hugh Grant scandal before Leno beat out Letterman years ago. Additionally, Letterman's own little scandal has helped his ratings. Leno had his time and moved on, so I think he should really move on. He can work on his beloved cars!

Dru said...

I don't watch late night talk shows, but if Leno retired and the slot was given to Conan, then Leno should move on. The problem with TV executives these days is they don't give programming time to grow an audience.

Mason Canyon said...

No one can ever fill Johnny Carson's shoes. With that said, I think they should give it to a third party, let someone else try since both of these guys have problems.

I haven't watch Lost in so long I'd be lost trying to catch up.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Leno voluntarily resigned. I think he was pushed out. About five or so years back, NBC, in an effort to keep Conan from jumping ship, promised him the Tonight Show if he'd hang on for five more years. He agreed, as it had been a childhood dream of his to one day sit in that chair. Per Conan, he was offered more $$ by other networks, but he stayed because of the promise of The Tonight Show.

NBC made this deal when Jay was on top, because they knew Conan appealed to a younger, hipper audience and because they, incorrectly, assumed Jay would be ready to retire when 2009 rolled around. Obviously he wasn't. NBC didn't factor in Jay's work ethic and they didn't count on him still being in the #1 slot when it was time for him to go. (Saturday Night Live did a very amusing sketch about this on Sat. They said it was kind of like NBC telling it's first wife that she'd be getting the boot in 2009 to make way for a newer, younger wife. Then when 2009 rolled around, it no longer wanted to get rid of the the first wife, who had been working out and was still in really good shape.)

Anyway, in an effort to have it's cake and eat it too, NBC cooked up the 10:00 debacle and we all no how that turned out. In Conan's defense, even the local news tanked following Jay's 10:00 show. In fact, all of the NBC affiliates were SCREAMING to get the show off the air. To say that Jay's show was #1 and Conan's just couldn't cut it, is not comparing apples to apples. Conan was taking a second crack at the day's jokes and he was following a 10:00 lead in show and local programming that was down dramatically.

I'm a baby boomer and I do like Jay, but I think Conan is a riot! While my parents generation is firmly in Jay's corner, mine is split and my son's geration is absolutely Team Conan.

I think both men were treated unfairly, but I think Conan has gotten the shorter end of the stick. The real bad guys here are really the NBC execs. I think NBC will really regret this. Everyone I know who still has disposible income in this economy is a kid. (They're all still living w/their parents.) Conan's audience are the ones who can patronize the sponsors and they are absolutely the wave of the future.

Both men are funny and their responses to this have been funny. At the same time, they're real people, who are obviously getting quite bruised by this. Conan's letter to "the people of the world" :) advised us not to feel sorry for him as he makes big bucks to do something he loves. He'll certainly still be able to pay his electric bill. I do feel badly for him, though, and I will miss him in the spot! :)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again.... Just wanted to point out that I KNOW how to spell KNOW. (I typed "no" in the above post.) If this wasn't a site for writers, I would just leave that alone, but since it is... I felt the need to clarify. :) Have a great morning!

Anonymous said...

Alright, I also know how to spell GENERATION. Also, please give my comments a "really-ecotomy". I really shouldn't attempt to type before I've had my morning coffee.

Kate Collins said...

Good instant analyses, everyone! Anonymous, you hit this from all angles -- typos or not -- a fair and balanced look.

I think it's clear the big culprit here are the suits behind the scenes who are looking only at the bottom line. But isn't that how it is in the publishing world, too? Probably most places, in fact. How many writers are given a chance to find their audience? But don't get me started....

Let's hope both Leno and Conan end up with their dignities intact and that both land in much better places.

Katie said...

Leno was given a date that he was being retired and Conan was designated as the one to gain the Tonight Show. I LOVE Conan. just love him...(keep saying I'll marry him someday...well, him and Hugh Laurie and Stephen Colbert).

I think NBC is screwing both Conan and Leno. But I also think Leno is pushing to have his old job back. Conan has had the Tonight Show for just about a year now. I'm hoping that if NBC decides to give Conan the ax, that he moves to Fox (heard rumors of that), because I'd watch him.

I don't watch Lost, so could care less that its coming back on :)

CindyinTempe said...

The ONLY time I liked Conan was when he did the three way sparring with Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert on all three shows. Tried watching Conan but he didn't click with us, but then we didn't care for Leno's new show either. We're out of the habit of staying up to watch the Tonight Show now, don't know if we'll go back or not...

signlady217 said...

I love Jay and can't stand Conan, but I think Jay should just bow out gracefully and do something else; go back to regular stand-up or try movies or something. Conan's getting a raw deal and it's not right. And remember, this will affect the two groups of band members, too.

I agree with Maggie about Craig Ferguson; that dude is hilarious! I nearly fall off the couch laughing when I watch his show!

And I am so excited that LOST is almost here! Glad we will finally get some answers about a few things. The writers have always said they knew how it would end and were writing everything towards that, so we'll see. However, if you haven't watched the last couple of seasons, you need to go back and start from the beginning and go all the way through, esp. with last year season having so many flashforwards mixed in with the flashbacks and present. Yikes! Did you get lost trying to keep it all straight? Good show, it will be missed.

Donna Lea Simpson said...

Can't stand Conan, but I feel for him. However... if I recall, five years ago Conan said he was leaving NBC if there was no chance he was going to get the Tonight Show in the near future, so NBC went to Leno and told him that. After what Leno went through when he took over, he didn't want the same fallout between him and Conanando, so he reluctantly agreed to leave in 2009 so NBC could give the show to Conan.

But then... he wasn't ready to retire, so he agreed to an experimental show at 10. It tanked and was to be canceled. NBC tried not to lose him, too, and offered him 11:35, shoving Conan to 12:05.

Conan objected. NBC said, take it or leave, and then the whining started. On Conan's part. I don't blame him, really; he wasn't given the shot that Leno was given to improve his ratings.

But it's business. NBC's only real obligation is to shareholders, and Leno is the right fit (for the moment, anyway; who's to say a year from now?) to get ratings back. Maybe. It's a crapshoot, and I don't envy Leno, unless he looks at it like an exciting challenge.

Bottom line... it's business. Like publishing, it is up to everyone to look out for themselves, which NBC is doing, and Leno should too. No shame in him accepting his job back, when his employer wants him to.

I've learned the hard way that trying to be too nice ends up badly, and I think that's what Leno learned after his deal five years ago. His obligation is to do what's right for him.

However... Craig Ferguson rules. He's funnier than all the rest of them combined. I'm hoping Letterman is grooming Ferguson to take over his spot, since he owns Craig's program.

misterreereeder said...

Not particularly a fan of either late night talk shows or of LOST. But I hear from a lot of LOST fans. It is one of those talks in the office.

Kate Collins said...

I really got out of watching any of the late night talk shows after Carson went off the air, mostly because I get up so darn early! This debate is certainly interesting. There's a big article in USA Today about it, too, coincidentally.
Re: Lost -- I tried very hard to follow everything that happened last season because I think it's brilliantly crafted. And while I did get confused, I still love the show and will miss it desperately. There just isn't much on that is as well done, although I do love Dexter on Showtime, macabre though it is. The writing, again, is excellent.
Thanks for all your input, everyone. This was fun!

Bookworm Princess said...

I have had Dexter recommended to me by several people. I have it in my instant Netflix cue but still haven't had time to watch season 1 yet. I will soon though :-)

Kate Collins said...

Prinny, when you watch it, hang it there. It'll seem a bit on the gruesome side. I didn't care for Dex at first. But it really gets better and better. I'm still squeamish on some scenes, but love the idea of a serial killer who kills only serial killers. The show is based on a mystery series by the same name, btw, also excellent.

Helen Kiker said...

I do not like either Leno or Conan so I will not be watching either one. If I do stay up for a late show it would be David Letterman.

As for Lost, I am eagerly awaited the return.

Helen

Sheery said...

I only watch late night talk shows when I'm super interested in the guest. Even then, that's what youtube is for. :) As for this whole Leno/Conan mess - ugh!

Leno (from what I recall) chose to retire. When the time came - he didn't want to but The Tonight Show had already been signed to Conan. So NBC created a new show for Leno. Dude, your show tanked, accept it and go back to touring your stand up. I think Leno and NBC are schmucks for basically kicking Conan out of The Tonight Show - huge monetary compensation or not. I think it's really bad business and will hurt NBC and Leno.

As for Lost - I haven't watched that in a while. I love Grey;s Anatomy and Dexter. And my new favorite show is Castle - which is actually on in an hour. YAY!

signlady217 said...

Sheery--Castle is a great show! I love it, too. I usually end up watching it online later since it is opposite CSI Miami which I also love. Another great one that I've been waiting on is finally back, too: 24! Keifer Sutherland is so good as Jack Bauer, love watching him! In case you can't tell, I'm a sucker for a good cop show!

Heather Webber said...

These shows are way past my bedtime! I feel so out of the loop.

Linda said...

I'm like Heather, these show are past my bedtime too. I don't think I've ever seen an entire episode of The Tonight Show....I think all I've ever seen of it are clips of it on other entertainment shows.

Bookworm Princess said...

Linda and Heather,

You hacve to get a DVR. I am telling you it will change your life :-)