a seismic shift in the late night talk show landscape begins today.
conan o'brien has his last late night show before signing off forever, only to reemerge as the new host of the tonight show. i'm one of those people who don't think conan is very funny, at least not in recent years. his kind of humor is mean-spirited, fueled by his own insecurities. i hate it when he makes fun of the band; that kind of derisive behavior in any other workplace would constitute a lawsuit of some kind. regardless, when i heard that leno was leaving and conan was moving to los angeles to take over the tonight show, i thought that was a big mistake. will conan's brand of humor be suitable for the more mainstream 11:35 timeslot? will america get behind the masturbating bear and the insult comic dog?
even a worse decision was hiring jimmy fallon to replace conan's late night seat at 12:35. jimmy fallon, are you serious? talk about somebody undeserving of his position: he wasn't funny when he was on saturday night live, he wasn't funny in the few failed comedy movies, so what makes NBC think he'll be good as a talkshow host? did NBC pick fallon just to try and get the handful of people who actually think he's cute?
the person most overlooked here is carson daly, who currently sits at his own show at 1:35. i've always thought daly to be a lightweight because of his MTV pop culture pedigree, but his experience hosting TRL gave him invaluable real world experience when it comes to dealing with celebrities. because he's on so late, many of his guests are up-and-coming actors or musicians, which often are a lot more interesting and real than big name stars. and since he's only for half an hour, there's also more laughs per buck. why couldn't they get daly to host the late show at 12:35, and do away with this whole jimmy fallon nonsense? my secret wish is for fallon to fail so miserably, NBC will finally come to their senses and bring up carson daly.
over at CBS, david letterman is starting to feel like a dinosaur. he's certainly been in the talkshow game longer than anybody else, so he's kind of like the godfather of late shows. i find him not funny at all (ever since his move to CBS), and people put up with his antics because of who he is.
i've been watching more late late show with craig ferguson at 12:35 recently. he's been getting some good buzz of late, and he seems to have a genuine rapport with the guests on his show, unlike conan, who's often more miss than hit. ferguson also seems to be off-script for much of what he does and it's kind of thrilling to watch him improvise each night. he's a bit of the scottish charmer (though he recently nationalized to become a US citizen) and lady guests (and probably some male guests as well) melt when they meet him.
if anyone is a heir to conan's alt-comedy throne, it's definitely jimmy kimmel on ABC at 12:05. i wonder if a lot of conan's demographics will jump ship to kimmel? but i get the feeling conan appeals to a more educated hipster demo, and kimmel is more lowest common denominator frat humor.
so what's in store for leno? for a while, he was the most wanted man in late night, with a whole bunch of networks vying for his talk show talent to bring in some cheap late night dollars. would he go to ABC? possibly oust kimmel? maybe FOX would get back into the late night game again. or possibly syndication? so it was a stroke of genius when NBC decided to give leno a historical deal of the 10:00 timeslot monday through friday. has this ever been done before? probably not since the days of B&W only tv. 10:00 is primetime (as compared to late night) and commands a much larger audience. guests would be lining up to be on the show and the exposure it'd bring to whatever they're pitching. leno's new primetime show will pretty much get first dibs when it comes to booking. the whole evening talk show game will change. i think people will be receptive to a primetime talk show, at least initially. leno has the feel-good demeanor that's good for that time slot. i just hope he does do something different, or at least get new writers. his nightly monologues are not very funny (as a matter of fact, most monologues are dumb, they should just away with it completely).
who loses out once the dust settles? definitely conan o'brien. he was already in a tough spot transitioning from 12:35 to 11:35 (e.g. toning down his humor for a more mainstream market), and relocating from NYC to LA no less (everyone knows the east coast is funnier). instead of being the flagship of NBC late night, he's still under the shadow of leno. will leno's show be based in LA as well? will conan and jay share a studio, like meadowland park? switch out the signs, change the set? whatever happens though, it's definitely going to be interesting. i personally think conan o'brien is relieved that he's still no.2. when he agreed to take over for jay on the tonight show, i think he bit off more than he could chew. but with leno still leading the pack, conan can continue to be bit edgier with his material. 10:00 becomes the new 11:35, and 11:35 the new 12:35.
television seems to be over-saturated with talk shows these days. besides all the going-ons at night, most people don't realize the free-for-all that happens during the daytime. you got your regis & kelly, your rachel ray, your martha stewart, your bonnie hunt, your ellen degeneres, and then the whole slew of network morning shows.
so on the last night of conan's show, i've revised my opinion of the man. all this week there's been retrospective of the past 16 years, and some of it were really funny. i think he's sort of lost his magic touch recently. will the move to los angeles with a new show make conan funny again? who knows.