Sorry to those who saw the headline and was hoping for a post about the very funny 1970s show of the same name. Maybe one day I'll write about that. But today....well it's still about NBC.
Like a train wreck I can't seem to take my eyes off the late night shows as they go after one another ... well I guess it would be more appropriate to say as they go after Leno.
From Jimmy Kimmel's funny spoofs of Leno, to David Letterman's frustration as Leno saying at first that he would retire, then saying, well, basically nothing to Leno going after Letterman.
Now, I know everyone is fair game. And I know that I would hate to be on late night, unless I was Carson Daily in which case I don't think even NBC knows he's still on the air. But I would be worried that someones sites would be set on me. And so it is with Leno and now Letterman.
On Letterman's late show he had a particularly pointed video of how Leno basically ousted Carson, and now O'Brien and even Jack Paar. While it was a bit, it was, well as i said pretty pointed. Well apparently it was too much for Leno.
According to Nikki FInke Leno hit back at Letterman on his Wednesday night show. And while Letterman and everyone else in late night has been taking shots at Jay Leno, they've all been about his professional conduct, or I guess his lack of professional conduct. Well not Jay.
Apparently Jay Leno brings Letterman's wife into his sites. Nice.
I know the stakes are high. I know that it has to be crappy to be in the midst of all this if you're Conan O'Brien because you were made a promise and now it's being broken. It has to be tough for Leno who is pretty much the target of everyone and it has to be a bummer for Letterman who is probably reliving the crap he had to endure way back when NBC screwed him.
But until Wednesday evening, I don't think any of the other late night hosts brought the others family into the mix.
I imagine this will die down a bit when O'Brien is off the air after this week. And while I have no doubt Letterman will continue to comment on it, for a little while anyway, I think Leno should let it go. He got what he wanted after all. He should just be happy with that.
I caught the impresison Kimmel did of Leno at the beginning of the week and thought that was pretty. It it left no one guessing whose team Jimmy Kimmel is on.
Then at the end of the week, Jay Leno invites Kimmel to do his 10 at 10. For those who don't know what that is, it's 10 questions posed to a guest who then answer them.
I don't know if Kimmel was already booked, if Leno thought Kimmel would back down, or if Jay Leno thought he could lampoon Kimmel, in the end ... well, it's pretty painful.
It's pretty obvious Jimmy Kimmel doesn't have a lot of love for Leno in this whole situation, and while Jay tries to get a couple of barbs in there, Kimmel pretty much runs the table and if that weren't bad enough, he makes a plea for Jay Leno to jet get out of television, take his millions of dollars and play with his cars.
There was something very comfortable about The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Or as we all used to call it The Johnny Carson Show or just plain Johnny Carson.
I still remember when the show was 90 minutes long.
What was comfortable about that show, or at least as I remember it, was that it was a constant. No matter what else was going on in the world, you could stay up after the late night news and see Johnny Carson talk about the days events. It didn't matter if anyone else in the house was watching, Johnny was on the little screen keeping you company and making you feel like you were as much a part of his late night routine as he was to yours.
He'd invite guests who (as i've mentioned in earlier posts) all seemed to know one another. They all sat in that chair next to him and chatted and laughed and then moved over to make way for the next guest. And when they broke to a commercial, a nice little card would fill the screen with the words "More To Come" and I couldn't wait for more.
In this midst of all this NBC turmoil over late night, I decided to watch an entire episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. I was surprised.
Surprised because while I am firmly in Team Conan's camp, I've only really ever caught segments of his show. Last night I tuned in to watch a very funny monologue and was happy to see him interact with his guests in a much more comfortable manner.
One of the things that I always thought was a little lacking with Conan is the same issue I have with Craig Ferguson and that is that while i think they're both great at comedy, I don't think either interviews their guests very well.
But last night Conan was on. Maybe the pressure of having to perform is gone now that he knows his days are essentially numbered. Or maybe it's that he's risen in the ratings so he's going to keep doing whatever it is he's doing.
But one of the fun, if nostalgic, things I noticed last night was the throw back to the Johnny Carson show. During a break, a placard filled the screen before break, just like the old days. And it was fun to see each of last nights guests stay the entire hour and just slide down the couch.
Now for all I know Jay Leno may have done the very same thing. But I rarely watched the Leno show, even in segments.
It is clear to me that O'Brien got the short end of the stick in this whole thing. But maybe what Johnny Carson is purported to have said to David Letterman many years ago is true; And that is it's no longer The Tonight Show. It's the show of whoever hosts it.
It's been the Leno show for a long time, and now it's the O'Brien show and it will probably be the Leno show again.
For me, I don't know that I would have watched O'Brien all that much had this all not occurred, since I'm more of a David Letterman fan. But, like The Johnny Carson Show, it would have been a comfort to know that O'Brien would be hosting the show for however long he wanted and that i could tune in if I ever felt the desire...or if Letterman was on vacation.
And now it just seems ... well a bit of a desecration to the show that Carson essentially left to NBC. And while it was fun to watch the show last night I have to say, if Leno is back in the chair, I doubt I'll be "right back" anytime soon.
So said Conan O'Brien in a prepared statement issued this afternoon. And it's good to see that he's getting kudos for the statement (below).
He not only sums up the issue, he gives good reason why he can't be a party to NBC's "solution." While it's great to see him trying to protect The Tonight Show and even Late Night, it's pretty sad that someone who has sat in The Tonight Show chair for only 7 months seems to be the only person who is trying to protect the decades old institution.
Again, memories of the whole debacle with Letterman and Leno in the mid 90s churn to the surface. It seems NBC, in an effort to save face, is willing to shoot itself in the face.
And what a slap to Conan to have NBC execs basically tell him he really doesn't matter. Apparently NBC needs to change it's call letters to JLN or Jay Leno Network.
Now, I don't have anything against Leno, but even though some high profile comedians have come to his defense, I can't help but see him as the bad guy in this. He gave interviews some time back that said if the network wanted him back in late night, he would be willing to go. Sure he's the nice guy who will do whatever the network wants. But sometimes what the network wants isn't necessarily best for others. And yes, I know you always have to watch out for Number One, but c'mon, really? Is it really worth it to screw Conan, and Jimmy Fallon in the process just to tell jokes at 11:35?
Did NBC muck this whole thing up? Yes, of course they did. And based upon history, I guess it shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone. But Conan's reaction, similar to Letterman's oh so many years ago, shows us all that there are still those who value integrity and "doing the right thing" over truck loads of money.
Kudos Conan, here's hoping you land on your feet.
People of Earth:
In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.
The very real fact that she did what she did makes it almost impossible to honor her wish.
Miep Gies died Monday. She was the secretary who helped hide and bring food to Anne Frank and those hidden in the small attic space in Amsterdam.
“Every year on the fourth of August, I close the curtains of my home and do not answer the doorbell or the telephone,” she said. “It is the day that my Jewish friends were taken away to the death camps. I have never overcome that shock.”
Her life was forever changed by the people she helped. I guess it could be argued that her life, and those around her, were forever changed by the war that tore up the world during that time.
"Despite everything, I believe people are good at heart," is a quote attributed to Anne Frank. And a perfect testament to those words is Miep Gies.
In the mid 90s Bill Carter wrote a book entitled The Late Shift. That book chronicled the almost unbelievable story of how NBC handled the retirement of Johnny Carson and who would eventually take over The Tonight show. And by retirement the dispute of whether Carson was ready to retire, or was inadvertently pushed out.
There had been much speculation in those days that David Letterman (a favorite and some say choice of Carson as his replacement) was all but a shoe in, though execs at NBC were afraid of his anti company comedy. Instead they chose Jay Leno, and ... well the rest is history, albeit there is so much more to the story. HBO later produced a feature based upon the book.
Back in 2005 NBC made big headlines by announcing that upon Leno's retirement from The Tonight Show in 2009 and Conan O'Brien's completion of his then current contract, NBC would give The Tonight Show to O'Brien....the only problem was Leno wasn't ready to retire, but being the good "company man" he was, agreed to the deal.
Then 2009 rolled around, and NBC was worried that Leno would jump to another network. After all he was number one in late night television and NBC didn't want Leno on another network going up against his old timeslot. The solution? Leno at 10pm.
The experiment didn't work and it was announced on Sunday that The Jay Leno Showwould be canceled...or more accurately, Leno at 10 was canceled, but Leno at 11:35 would return but for an abbreviated half hour followed by The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien at 12:05. A friend noted the irony of The Tonight Show actually airing the morning of the following day and not "tonight "at all.
Obviously COnan O'Brien can't be that happy. And for the first time that I can remember, he made a couple of quips in his monologue this week that seemed to target both NBC AND Leno, someone he has, up until now pretty much been kind to.
If I were Conan I'd be pissed too. If for nothing he is right back where he started; following Jay Leno. And if I were Conan, I would also be pissed that Leno seems to think nothing of screwing him.
Yeah, i know, it's all business and money, but c'mon NBC is handling this as if it's not a big thing. But I have to tell you, it makes me want to watch Leno even less than I already do (which isn't often) and makes me want to root for O'Brien who I enjoy from time to time but have never been one of his champions.
Reports say that if O'Brien opts to leave NBC that the network won't stand in his way... gee thanks. And should that scenario come to pass, Leno will be back on for a full hour in latenight.
Where is Jimmy Fallon in all this? It's hard to determine. NBC says they're committed to keeping all three of the guys, but what they say and what they do may be two different things. I've heard Fallon isn't doing all that well in his time slot and I think it was interesting that just a couple of months after his show debuted it was off the air for a short time. I don't know if they were retooling, or just taking a break.
I have always been a features guy. Meaning I love movies and nearly everything about them. I do watch a tremendous amount of television however, and while I know there is politics in ever kind of job which includes features, I can't imagine working at a network, especially NBC now.
NBC seems to either be running a rudderless ship, or the captain is MIA. In either case I can't see their current situation end well for anyone ... well, maybe Leno. But if they get rid of O'Brien, and return Leno to his old perch, I certainly hope, for their sake, he can deliver. Because how crappy would it be if people just decided to watch Letterman, Ferguson and forget NBC altogether?
Now THAT would be worth writing a sequel to The Late Shift.