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Monday, November 22, 2010

The War for Late Night

I finished reading "The War for Late Night" last week.

Every story usually has a hero and a villain.  There are no heroes here.  It seems NBC executives made some boneheaded decisions, and Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien played huge roles in creating their own problems.

Where do I start?  The NBC execs tried to keep Jay and Conan happy.  They went 0-for-2.  Leno took a job, the 10 PM show, he never wanted.  It bombed.  Conan resisted attempts to make his "Tonight" show unacceptable to a broader audience at 11:35 PM.  It bombed.  The NBC execs revealed their ineptitude once again when they tried to fix things.

Leno got his old show back, but he also picked up a damaged reputation.  O'Brien wound up on basic cable.  He too is damaged goods for failing to hold on to Leno's "Tonight" audience.

I'm neither a Leno nor Conan fan.  I'm not a Seinfield fan, either, but he had the best lines in the book.  Seinfield was quoted as saying comics debated, for years, who would take over the "Tonight" show when Johnny Carson left, but no one realized that when Carson left, he took "Tonight" with him.

Conan, Leno, and Letterman just do nightly comedy shows.  They're all trying to achieve that Carson standard, to sit in his chair, but there was only one Johnny Carson.  Yes, I'm having a geezer moment.  Times change.  Tastes in comedy change.  The point is you have a bunch of people trying to fill shoes that cannot be filled.