Friday, January 22, 2010


It was Conan's final Tonight Show.  I found it very sad.  I laughed a few times, but mostly I just nodded my head in empathy.  

I've been avoiding weighing in on the ever-increasing late night cat fight, mainly because I stopped watching it.  I found it wholly unenjoyable.  I'm not sure why, but witnessing these grown men air their vendettas through brutally personal attacks, disguised as jokes, makes me very uncomfortable.  

Look, I know I should be the last guy yelling foul for name-calling, but I gotta tell ya, it all makes me cringe.  I'm aware that late night monologues are aimed at mocking pop culture.  And yes, the current state of talk shows are part of that pop culture.  But somehow when the mockers are the subject of the mocking it all gets weird and incestuous.  I just wanna slap them and say, "Stop fucking your mother!"  Boy if I had a nickel for every time I had that yelled at me... See, that just made you feel weird and uncomfortable, right?

Truth is, I'm a Letterman fan.  Always have been.  I appreciate and understand why more people watch Jay, but to me, Dave was always the smarter, classier act.  Clearly Dave had some deep animosity towards Jay after the Tonight Show landed in Leno's lap, but that dirt was never aired on their shows.  The facts became lore and eventually a book and a TV movie, but neither host debased themselves with inflammatory direct attacks.  So watching Dave suddenly vent his historical frustration with Jay seems somehow beneath him.  

I don't know these men.  I clearly have no insight into the history between Jay and the comedians who are lashing out at him.  Obviously Leno is a competitive guy.  And I guess that effort has crossed the line into some nefarious machinations.  But somehow launching monologue bombs at each other seems like a cheap, ineffective way to address the larger issue -- NBC fucked up.  I think Conan's first instinct, the letter to the "people of earth" was the right move.  It was a humorous and poignant summary of the situation and communicated his pained point of view about the dilemma.  I'm not sure who threw the first one-liner snowball, but not unlike a political campaign, once the first shot is fired, it's kill or be killed.  So now Jay, Conan, Letterman, Kimmel, Ferguson, and those two other guys on NBC, have all joined in.  Thank God Jon Stewart (other than a shout out during Your Moment of Zen) has steered clear of it.

I guess I'm writing this somewhat pointless entry to remind folks that it's not about team Coco vs. team Leno, it's team Viewers vs. team NBC.  Unfortunately, this ugly battle is going to work in the network's favor.  It's already boosted ratings through the roof and now it's given the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (again), must-see status.  Let's not forget who the anger should be truly focused on -- NBC executives.  Yes, maybe Jay did some dirty deeds, but ultimately it's Jeff Zucker and his coked-up gyroscope who created this fiasco.  They are the ones who were too greedy and too scared to let Leno leave the building.  It's Zucker who endowed Leno with his current super-villain powers.  If we really wanted to make a point, we'd unprogram NBC from our remotes.  Fuck these guys.

Which brings me to my last point.  And again, in the spirit of love and service, I want to help.  So if NBC really wants to start anew, they need a tummy tuck and a face lift.  We all know that sucking fat out of a network is impossible, so I'll have to settle for the face lift.  NBC needs a NEW LOGO.  

They've had the microphone, the musical notes, the first peacock, the big "N", and the new peacock.  I'm thinking they go retro baby, back to the 70's -- the NBC snake 

Remember the snake?  It only seems fitting.  

Or the swastika, one or the other.


Anonymous said...

I think what you said is very true!
NBC executives are to blame! But I enjoy watching Conan in these last few days simply because it's a moment in Television history and it's hillarious!
Also, when do you guys start filming season 3? I work as an extra and I was on a couple of old episodes. I would love to work on the new season, but I haven't heard anything yet. I assume you're still doing table reads. Good luck with everything!!

Brian B said...

I really dont get it how fucking up an entire network warrents a person keeping thier job. If this were a professional sports team (which deals with almost the same pressures as tv stations) heads would have rolled a long time ago. Maybe NBC should hire Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones, cause if this shit happened to them, metaphorically Zucker would have been gone and rebuilding would have already begun. I feel terrible for Conan (i also hope he gets a guest spot on Sons) but i can also feel for Jay. The man is just trying to survive. Its just one big fucked up situation.

Outsider said...

I used to like Dave in the olden back when hbo and the playboy channel were new. But he got crusty in his later years especially after the operation...that heart lung machine can change a person. Plus this girl I go out with said he thoughtlessly drove his ferrari in such a way that she had to drive into a ditch to get out of the way on a country road in New York. And that whole aw shucks act that made it seem like he was bashful when he was dipping his dipstick in staff....nauseates in retrospect.
And as to NBC I'd like to see it rise from the ashes and become more like a hybrid FX/HBO/Showtime

Amanda Z said...

I love you! Always bringing the realistic and much needed smile to the non naive faces.

Keep telling it like it is.

That is all :)

Anonymous said...

The last Conan show was really good. Im a Kimmel fan over every other guy.To say he can make funny of whats going on is censorship, I like Kimmel cause hi isnt pulling punches.

Kurtis R Osterlund said...

As usual, it's the network causing the problems and putting it off on the talent. I thought Dick Ebersol's comments last week truly showed not only what was going to happen, but the general attitude towards talent the suits have. Yet another reason why I route for the suits to bend over and take it whenever they can.

Katbrewlo said...

It's nice to see a bunch of grown men lowering themseves to this kind of bitchiness. Usually we're bombarded with grown women acting like classless little bitches (i.e. Real Housewives of...).

Give Jimmy Fallon a try (he's "one of the other guys" on NBC). My husband and I started watching him a few months ago; he is so funny and sincere. Reminds us of Johnny Carson. The same kind of humor...classic. Catch him doing Neil Young on uTube. Hilarous. And his band, the Roots, truly are the "best band in latenight!"

Cavu said...

You just captivated me about shows and guys I never saw and probably will never see (They don't air it in France (not sure "air" is the right word))

Anonymous said...

This is a plea to Comcast Stephen B. Burke, at the very least remove Jeff Zucker from any authority and control over NBC Universal Entertainment.Zucker may have skills in developing and acquiring basic cable stations which have added 100's of millions to net profit but does not have the creative risk management skills for NBC prime-time and Late Night Scheduling.You have an obligation to shareholders to maximize long term profit and corporate valuation, Jeff Zucker is effective in liquidating properties for the sake of cost reduction, he is not effective in running a major network, remove him or sell NBC network.
Your Truly frankblack2012

The Nonpopulist said...

I agree with your take. Zucker and other faceless executives are the ones to blame. The biggest joke was Dick Ebersol, head of NBC Sports, who had some nasty things to say about how much of a failure Conan is when the Olympics he is overseeing is already slated to lose $200 million on the upcoming winter Olympics. I am cutting NBC from my dvr save NFL football, Community, Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock. I'm cutting The Office and all the other fat.

Anonymous said...

Loved Letterman in the early days,but long ago for me he appeared to become a mean and bitter man. Even when I still liked him I never would have described him as a class act.

I can't say I'm bothered by the personal attacks the hosts have launched against each other, specifically Letterman and Leno. The personal, very public barbs tossed at each is giving them a taste of what they dish out to others on a nightly basis.

Denise Shelton said...

I liked the last show. The exit interview was particularly touching (like a knife in the heart) for those of us who've lost our jobs in the economic downturn. It was also classy how Conan thanked NBC for the past years that were so successful for the association. Looks like Jimmy Fallon has dodged a bullet for now. Personally, I'm kind of looking forward to the Olympics. Let the healing start.

Anonymous said...

I work during prime time and am usually playing back on the DVR during the late-night talk show times, so I don't watch much late-night. I don't have a favorite and haven't kept up with the current soap-opera like story.

As to Zucker, I agree with you. He needs to be gone. Period. It's just that simple - why he still has a job, I don't know. I don't watch NBC and haven't in a long time because there is nothing to watch on NBC. I enjoyed Southland but they cancelled it. (Now it's on cable - I know!) but, that was it. There is nothing left to see on NBC. I'll probably watch some of the Olympics but I know that they'll screw that up like they do every time with 1 hour of human-interest stories for every 5 seconds of sports competition. (Where's Roone Arledge when you need him?)

That said, I'm having a little trouble feeling sorry for Conan. He's walking away with 32 million in severance pay. And Jay, Dave, Kimmell, et. al, I can take or leave, so I usually just leave them. I'll tell my age with this one: I miss Dick Cavett.

Terrence Moss said...

I am so glad to read someone else write about how much fault NBC has in this rather than simply going all Jay or all Conan.

NBC is a mess. If Conan was so itching to go in 2004, they should have had the respect to let him do so. Instead, NBC ONLY goes after its own interests. There's room for both in business.

And all this Jay hate is so unfair. People don't realize that Jay was in the Conan seat when this whole thing began. Both of them are victims of the evil NBC machine.

Let Jay have "Tonight". Conan wasn't right for it because his crowd isn't the "Tonight" crowd. He will do much better away from NBC and be much better off owning a show elsewhere.

Either way, he went out last night about as classy and poignantly as one can in this situation.

QuickDraw said...

Thank you--for the past few weeks when this holy mess of NBC's making started, I was amazed that a corporation would pull such despicable business maneuverings. I swear, NBC executives make loan sharks look like Girl Scouts. I've watched most of the different late night shows. Don't care for Letterman--bitterness isn't a pretty sight. Have to admit, I'm disappointed in Jay, because instead of being the company guy--he should have backed Conan up. I feel for Conan, and I felt his last show was indeed a class act. I have watched Jimmy Fallon and may watch again. However, due to the way this whole debacle has been handled, I'm am disgusted by NBC and the reptiles that run it.

holymotherofgod said...

The only part I have liked about this whole Conan vs Jay thing is the honest (?) on air discussion by Jay recently where he told everyone how he got removed from the tonight show in the first place. That was at least refreshing. But the remaining fall out with everyone taking sides and other comedians taking it on I could do without.

rhys said...

You should check out Conan's last show. He gave a very serious final speech at the very end that was very classy and mature, akin to that original letter. Definitely worth seeing.

Urno Talbot said...

How can you be so mean to a beautiful, legendary, mythic animal like the snake? Zucker is just a punk ass lame vengeful human, the ones who walk with 2 legs are the only ones to be wary of.
Bighead little man twisted Leno's failure at 10pm into somehow being the reason to break a deal with Conan, that's what his type does best, lie and betray. If he had an ounce of talent or creativity he wouldnt have to resort to such obvious tactics.
BTW, on the SAG FB page I wrote on the wall something about ignoring SOA and Katey, in less than 2 minutes it was removed. I tried.

njames said...

Once again, spot on commentary. Your comment about it being about the NBC executives and not the late night hosts was EXACTLY my point on my article about the whole situation. However, until reading your post, I never considered something. Do you think maybe NBC wanted the viewers to side with Leno/Conan? That way it took the blame off the executives? If so, job well done. Who needs to do be successful at programming a network, when all you have to be good at is spinning press?

therealzenobia said...

Re: Damages @ TV by the Numbers

Ratings schmatings - he should be harping on Damages for being a ridiculous and offensively self-important show that damages FX's authenticity.

Dead Snoopy said... make the point that it should be the viewers against NBC. Well I hate to break this to you but that point wasn't lost on anyone. I have no intention of watching NBC's programming & judging on the way a generation is watching Conan via dvd recording, Hulu or downloading, they're not interested in giving NBC's broken business model an economic windfall either. Let Leno & his ilk die off...people such as myself who grew up with O'brien's work & sensitivities will be presciding over that network's funeral.

Miffed67 said...

Ok, you know the swastika is a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness, so let's not use that for NBC. It was the Nazis that gave it the nefarious connotation it has in Western society. I can get behind the snake logo, tho!

Mags said...

Hi Kurt, (feels wrong to call you Kurt I feel like i should cal you Mr. Sutter)

I agree with you in the case of the Battle of the Late Night stars. I think Conan handled it with dignity and grace. Thanks for you very candid thoughts and opinions, it's what the world needs. And thank you for SAMCRO. You have taken my husband and I to a very special place at night. Our kids go to bed and we sitdown and get wisked away together to Charming. I'm from Vancouver, BC and I wanted to point out that this would be a great place to set "filming in Ireland". The environments are so similar. My husband and I are absolutely in love the show and we are both so taken with your writting. Sincerely Mags

Anonymous said...

How about some 'teasers' for Season 3 - How's the writing going? Do you write in episodic order or do you go back and forth?

Unknown said...

We dont get all of the talk shows here in New Zealand where I live, but I too have always thought Letterman had a certain maturity to his actions, and I felt that was really backed up in a way I wont forget when he was one of, if not the first to support his entire crew financially during the writers' strike. When the going gets tough it's who puts their fucking money where their mouth is and he did it pretty much right away and I will always have a great amount of respect for him for that.

Jon Stewart is just pure class, my humble opinion of course, but he runs rings around them all.

Not sure if a Swastika would work - the continuity aspect of your new design is the key ... it's just missing the penis head at the end of the snake and it will be perfect.

Aaliyah said...

My phase for the NBC debacle is hot mess, in this case, a hot ass mess. I agree with what you said and many of the comments so I won't add on that front. And even though NBC may see an uptick in viewers for Leno, they have a long ways to go before they can be contenders in the prime time wars. It will be interesting to see what lessons are learned, if any.

Mags said...

I thought Jay Leno was super honest on Oprah today. I liked it. Mags

Katysfirstblog said...

Hey Dude, I just have to say...I konw you're supper busy...but you should totally write novels! SoA would make for some seriously great reading! I have worked in the book business for 10 years now...and we need people with the talent and storytelling ability like you! Please...PLEASE write novels!!!! I for one would sell the shit out of your books!

Anyhow...just a thought...something for you to do in all your "down" time!

Indianacat said...

Well, it's been a week since Conan (why do I always think 'the Barbarian' after that name - and not the Guvenator's version, either!) left the airwaves, which now don't stink quite as much as when all the poo was being flung.

Don't get me wrong, there's still an incredible smell of crappy teevee out there, but at least it's not being flung with as much abandon as before.

While I like the idea of reviving the old NBC logo, we all know that there is no going back to the way things were. We can only go forward.

No, I don't have a mouse in my pocket (just lint) by using 'we'. I refer to 'We' the viewing public.

When it comes to determining ratings, TIIC at the 'free teevee' nets have their brains stuck solidly up their rectums. The same is true for the local level IIC (Idiots In Charge). They still rely heavily upon Arbitron and Neilsen to determine their rate per second/minute and what works or doesn't work. The black box is still the be all end all with them.

Today's viewer has access to shows in all different ways/manners. The old ratings measurements just can't keep up with TV on demand, TIVO, DVRS, Hulu, and dot com sites that enable a viewer to watch shows when the viewer wishes to watch.

The days of the home VCR were a foretelling that determining viewership was going to need to change. With the home VCR, a viewer didn't have to choose between watching a show and doing something as audacious as doing something else (Sacriledge!).

TIIC refused to see what was in front of their faces, and continue to ignore the fact that good programs (and, unfortunately, not so good programs) gain a greater following outside the confines of the time slot. The local affiliates are just as tunnel visioned, hence their pissing and moaning over reduced ratings with Jay as a lead-in.

As stated in my previous posted rants, we, the viewers are just as much at fault as TIIC by not voting with our remote controls, our DVR/TIVO machines, etc., and letting said TIIC know what we like and don't like.

It's a shame that Conan's time on late night had to end as it did. It shouldn't have ended at all, but that's just one kitten's opinion.

Going back? Nice to think about, but impossible to do. Maybe what NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CW, My Network (in other words, the 'free teevee' nets) need to do is to look at what 'pay teevee' is doing right with long running dramas and other programs. Take off the rose colored glasses and see what's really going on and how they measure up. Take a good, hard look at where/how/when/how people are watching, and move valiantly and confidently into the future of programming.

Edward R Murrow was right when he called teevee a vast wasteland all those decades ago. Course, we all know that CBS eventually lost Murrow to Voice of America, while idiots like Zucker remain in charge.


John said...

I am not a watcher of any of the shows unless I am bored. I clearly wasn't watching any of them on Tuesdays nights since I would watch SOA then the repeat right after.

I remember the with Leno and Dave and how that was handled. Yes it sucked but two dogs are going to fight for a show.

This deal now is all fucked up. Leno is just a corp guy who does his job and people blame him for everything and the jokes that everyone is doing are way out of line.

I think Conan shouldn't have forced the tonight show deal in his contract years ago. I mean sure he should have had it written that if Jay leaves for whatever reason Conan is in.But the way Conan demanded he has the show in five years was his down fall. Real late night viewers like my friends knew Jay didn't want to leave but he had no say in the matter and he took a shot in the nuts like a man and didn't really bitch about it.

Now people think Jay retired and gave Conan the show and Conan is getting fired is BS. NBC fucked it up five years ago and then fucked it up today.

Hell Leno wanted to leave NBC since he lost his job but they wanted to pay him to sit on his couch and he didn't want to do that. That 10pm show was stupid but it was one more fuckup by NBC at the very last min. because Jay wasn't going to sign a deal to sit on his couch.
Jays biggest down fall is he is to PC on how he takes his job. Sure his jokes can be raw but Jay as a employee will make the boss happy.

Conan shouldn't have demanded the tonight show on X date and had it just say when Jay leaves.

NBC fucked everything up and people should be fired for being that stupid. First they knew when they signed the Conan deal years ago they should have worked with Jay and started planing something for him then not a few days before he is gone. They also should have pushed back on Conan or at least brought both guys in on that part and worked it out. Jay isn't a ass he just loves what he does as much as he loves cars.

Dave, Jimmy and the rest should have not gone as far as they did. Who knows what will happen with them in a year or two. Heck Conan is a free man after September and I know he will be looking for a new show :) They should also be glad that Leno was PC and brand loyal that he didn't jump when he had a chance.

Terrence Moss said...

Brilliant John -- just brilliant. I totally agree.