Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conan O'Brien

I don't have much to say about the premiere of Conan on TBS because, well, I didn't watch it. That shouldn't be a surprise; I don't care for the late night talk shows, and unless Kristen Bell is going to be on with Craig Ferguson, I don't go out of my way to watch them. I find the format limited and repetitive, and ever since Johnny Carson went off the air, they're never that much fun.

I know a lot of people who are fans of Conan--or at least fans of the idea of Conan, which I'll sort of get to in a minute--but I've never been that into him. A few years ago, Comedy Central used to run repeats of the previous night's Late Night. I watched it for about three weeks before I got sick of it. I guess Dick Cavett reruns have ruined me for the current format of late night television which is, in my opinion, filler and movie plugs. I'd rather watch reruns that late, which is what I'm usually doing. Just not my cup of tea, as they say.

There are, though, a couple of things that interest me about the return of Conan O'Brien to late night television. Outside of the people who genuinely like Conan, there are also the hipsters who think it's trendy to stick it to Jay Leno by supporting Conan O'Brien, who is younger and hipper. These were, as far as I could tell, the vast majority of "Team Coco." Because I don't for a second believe that the majority of people who were suddenly massive supporters of Conan O'Brien when he was getting screwed over by NBC were actually watching his show.

My opinion of the proceedings then--and it's the same now--is that there wouldn't be any discussion about removing Conan O'Brien and bringing back Jay Leno if Conan had actually had decent ratings. I thought it was shitty of Leno to take the deal, but really I blame NBC. They made a dumb, dopey decision to kill the golden goose by announcing that they would retire Leno and move Conan to The Tonight Show before Leno was ready to go. Jay was getting massive ratings. He was a cash cow for NBC, and it was idiotic of them to dismantle the show just to make Conan O'Brien happy and hold on to him.

Now, whatever you thought of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno--I myself was not a fan--the facts are that it brought in the ratings. And you don't just cancel a show (which, in essence, is what happened) when it's on top unless everyone wants to go their separate ways. NBC obviously didn't want to lose Leno, which is why they put him on again in an amazingly cheap format. But before that happened, Conan got his shot at Tonight and failed spectacularly.

I don't know what the issue was--NBC toned him down for an earlier audience, or he just wasn't clicking, or because his show was on up against The Colbert Report--but the simple fact is that Conan's ratings went into the toilet and stayed there. None of this would have ever happened if the people who came out in droves to support the apparent injustice of firing Conan O'Brien had actually been watching his show on weeknights. If the support had translated into actual ratings, Conan would still be on NBC and The Jay Leno Show would probably have been canceled by now. I know NBC was afraid of Leno going somewhere else and slaughtering them in the ratings, but if you look at Leno's numbers now, I doubt it would've amounted to much unless he'd gone over to HBO and really let himself go. And I don't think Leno's that kind of a comic; he's been safe for too long.

And when you're dealing with networks, is it really about anything other than safety? NBC doesn't want to take risks. That's why every new show is about doctors, lawyers, cops, or a rip-off of The Office.

NBC poisoned the well and killed two of their franchises. Leno's Tonight Show has never recovered, and they lost Conan O'Brien. But I'm not sure it really matters, to be honest.

Conan beat every other late night show on its premiere, but a lot of the people I know who watched were pretty unimpressed. I don't expect the ratings will amount to much if the quality doesn't pick up; people lose patience fast, and when the first week is over, expect a big drop. Especially since he's on at the same time as The Daily Show.

As much as the media and bloggers try to convince me that Conan O'Brien is this driving force in modern comedy and television, I've never felt it. I mean, I don't like Jon Stewart either, but I can see where he's very influential in pop culture. I think when it comes to Conan, the trendiness has gone out of it, so a lot of "Team Coco" is either watching Jon Stewart or out somewhere. I think TBS' attempt to become hip instead of the channel that just shows reruns of redneck sitcoms has mostly been a bust for them. More power to them if it works, but I think Conan's going to be lucky to carve out a small portion of the audience these days.

Also, after all of the back and forth about time slots and how Jay Leno is evil for taking his back, is it ironic or not that Conan O'Brien forced George Lopez to an hour later? Lopez is a pretty gracious guy for stepping back.

Of course, George Lopez isn't trendy.


Roger Owen Green said...

I liked the intro to Conan. Then again, I saw it online, AFTER it was recommended. Didn't watch the show, and I haven't watched late night TV since Ted Koppel left Nightline. OK, I do tape Stewart, but its timeslot seems irrelevant, somehow.

RJ said...

God, I love Dick Cavett. Have you ever seen his interview with Katharine Hepburn? It's the GREATEST.

Kal said...

You are so right about Conan. The 'idea' of Conan is funnier than the day to day reality. His highlight reel is hilarious but you have to go through a whole lot of smarm to get to it. I keep thinking of that part of the Simpson's episode where Bart was on Conan's show and Conan said, "Only I may dance". I remember staying up late as a teen to catch the 'Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson. That man knew how to entertain someone and if he had a massive ego, I never saw it.

Tallulah Morehead said...

George Lopez also isn't funny - at all.

Time slots are irrelevant. I saw Conan's premiere, Jon Stewart and Colbert (Conan's opposite both) and Letterman. Hello? The DVR has made timeslots unimportant. I never watch ANYTHING as it's broadcast anymore. You can't FF through the commercials on a live broadcast.

Conan's opening film bit was great, the rest was okay, until the first guest came on, and it became the same boring show everyone is doing. Unless the guest is Dame Edna or Steve Martin, or someone I can count on to be funny, I never watch any talk show interviews anymore, except Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's, and if their guest is too conservative, I FF there too.

Drake said...

Conan wears out his welcome fast if you're not a fan, i watched the first episode of Conan and just saw another mediocre talk show, his bater with Andy was ok but when the talk to the star selling something started the show just stopped being mildly interesting or watchable. I'm no fan of Jay Leno ( to me he's only funny in small bits and not for a whole show ). I like David Letterman because he's a cranky snarky old bastard, well he used to be...he's mellowed out some and not as funny or sharpe now.
I would love to see real old time talk show again like Cavett,David Frost or even Mike Douglas.

John Seven said...

I enjoyed Conan in his early days because of Andy Richter, who I thought was pretty sharp. I tolerated Conan - awful, awful TV show host and interviewer, and a terrible mugger when delivering unfunny comedy. I saw him within the last couple years and saw that he had actually gotten worse (I think Richter might have returned, but I have better things to do). The whole Leno vs. Conan thing was astonishing to me - people who I thought were rational and had a sense of reality got really worked up about it. Anyhow, you're entirely correct - the late night talk show format is limited and, I think, pretty unusable anyhow.