First, let us establish the ground rules. I am on Team Conan.
I’ve always enjoyed his brand of off-kilter, geeky smarts. Also, that hair. But now that he has given a definitive “No!” to NBC’s lunatic idea of pushing “The Tonight Show” to 12:05 a.m. (which would no longer make it “Tonight” and instead need to be called “Tomorrow”) to accommodate a half hour of Jay Leno, I’m on Team Conan for life. That has to be one of the one of the classiest “Fuck Off” letters ever written.
What I can’t understand, even for a moment, is how NBC would trade its past for its future. Johnny Carson, who held the chair for 30 years, retired at age 66. Leno, who hosted the show for 17 years, will be 60 in April. Conan, who had the job for seven months, is 46. Squeezing maybe five more years out of Jay at the expense of decades worth of comedy with Conan is, well, idiotic. Beyond idiotic.* This is no short-term investment.
But then, NBC is a network that defines every cliché of dumbassery. Putting Leno on at 10 p.m. five nights a week was an experiment we all knew would end badly. The same old thing but earlier is not a successful programming strategy. But now, instead of admitting failure they’re doubling down on a time machine to solve their problems.
Granted, the new Tonight Show wasn’t totally clicking with me yet. L.A. Conan had lost a certain edge and unpredictability. But it’s really hard to judge something like this after only half a year. “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” wasn’t an immediate hit either. But he grew into it and I had every confidence he’d do the same with Tonight.
But now, I guess not.
Look, Jay Leno signed a contract with NBC until 2004. He could have demanded a longer contract. He could have left the network after his reign ended. But he stayed and in the process helped to bring the whole damn house down.
I watch three shows on NBC: “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Chuck.” Sure, I catch the ever-present Law & Order” now and then, but almost exclusively in rerun. It as far as the rest of their primetime lineup goes, it’s a wasteland (apologies to “The Office & “Community,” – you’re good but Thursdays are brutal and I can only catch up on so much). Even after this whole sorted mess is over, I will still watch those shows.
But it’s just another reminder that if we wait for big corporations to do the smart and ethical thing, the only things left of our once mighty civilization will be cockroaches and Jay Leno.
[* Offending idiot comments removed with apologies.It was not my intent to be hurtful to anyone but the idiots at NBC.]
p.s. Thank you for indulging my pop culture philosophizing on dumb boy drama. To express my gratitude, please enjoy Olivia Wilde in her underwear. It’s the least I could do.
NOTE: Olivia has been very active since the earthquake happened in Haiti, raising awareness and relief funds to the devastated area via her Twitter account. Hot and socially conscious. Score.