cucko for coco

As you can see, my allegiance in the Late Night War is pretty clear: #teamconan, all the way. And man, what a ride it’s been.

When news broke that NBC was considering bumping Conan to a later timeslot to accommodate the increasingly-tired, perennially-unfunny Jay Leno, I felt bad for the guy, sure. But I never thought I would get so worked up about something that has absolutely no effect on my life.

I almost never watch the Tonight Show, and while I always had affection for Conan, I could take or leave his show. No more. Now, it seems nearly everyone has chosen a side, and the Twitterverse has exploded in a flurry of hashtags and trending topics. Even I, a person who until two weeks ago didn’t even have a Twitter account, have been micro-blogging about the scuffle.

But why should anyone care? Screwing over a talented, eloquent guy aside, NBC has been going down in flames for years, and, as some of my friends argued at Tuesday trivia, Coco hasn’t delivered the ratings the network so desperately needed. (Though neither has Leno, whose show had affiliates threatening a boycott and GOT CANCELLED. Doesn’t exactly scream late-night longevity, does it?)

Yet Conan’s crisis has transformed his ailing show into appointment television, with the affable ginger mining comedy gold through biting monologues and various other hilarious bits and bantering with guests.

Last night’s show was particularly inspired, starting with his trademark self-deprecating monologue (“You can do anything you want, kids, unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too!”), an amazing cameo from 30 Rock‘s Kenneth the Page (“This is the 5:00 tour. If it started any later, it wouldn’t be the 5:00 tour.”), and a fantastic sit-down with Ricky Gervais, where the comic chided Conan about his lack of discernible skills and his unlikely dream of becoming a lifeguard (“I think your skin would dazzle ships.”).

(Check out Gawker’s coverage of Tuesday and Wednesday to see video.)

There have been dueling reports today that both confirm and deny NBC has taken the reins from Conan and thrust them into Leno’s chubby hands, and probably many more to come in the hours, days, and weeks ahead. The War is by no means over. But as Videogum has so astutely reported, Jeff Zucker is still dead. And no matter the outcome, Team Conan isn’t about to go quietly into Tonight.

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6 responses to “cucko for coco

  1. Okay. I don’t want to touch this Leno/Conan mess, primarily because I just don’t care.

    I would however, like to address this tired notion that “NBC has been going down in flames for years.” If you’re speaking strictly about ratings, sure. But creatively? Personally, NBC airs more of my favorite shows than any other network, as it has for years.

  2. The Jay Leno Show Experiment was as awkward as some guy taking a hot new date out bowling with his ex-girlfriend. I don’t think Conan’s Tonight Show was as good as his 12:30 show and if you’d told me he was going to move to a different network and let Leno take over his crappy 11:30 show again, I doubt there’d be much controversy. Conan’s audience doesn’t revere the Tonight Show name. They’ll go wherever he goes. But I think the injustice of the whole situation is what has everyone up in arms. For the Conan fans and the people who never wanted Leno over Letterman in the first place, this is just another chip off the incompetent block that is NBC. They run their network with all the consistency of a 12 year old’s Madden franchise. Yes, they have some great scripted TV shows but that is not indicative of any sort of brilliance in the NBC front office. Just look at how they treated Scrubs, one of the best half hour shows of the last decade. NBC does not care about quality; they occasionally luck into it because some people still respect the name and write their best stuff for the network.

    Fortunately, the Tonight Show brand isn’t what it used to be. It’s a lot like Monday Night Football. It has a rich history that really only matters to people older than 40. Conan will land on his feet and he won’t even have to leave network tv to do it if Fox has anything to say about it. His dream of building on the Tonight Show franchise is over, but now he has a chance to build his own legacy with a company that won’t try to sabotage his ratings in order to weasel out of its contract with him.

  3. mark – yes, i was speaking primarily about their ratings woes, though cory’s point about scrubs also sums up my feelings perfectly. with that show and now with conan, NBC just doesn’t treat its talent with respect. yes, i love the office and 30 rock and chuck, but the network itself? nope.

    cory – i really enjoy that you’ve linked to the bills’ homepage.

  4. Saying that “NBC does not care about quality” is misleading, because it implies that NBC’s priorities are somehow different from any other network. Every network seeks improved ratings and every network will cancel quality programs along the way; NBC is certainly not unique in this.

    Arrested Development, arguably the greatest comedy of the past decade, was cancelled by FOX after three seasons and had its final four episodes exiled opposite the Olympic opening ceremonies. Sports Night, another brilliant half-hour show, was given just two seasons by ABC. NBC gives Scrubs seven seasons (the last four posting dismal ratings) and it’s the poster boy for not respecting talent? In the ’06-’07 television season, The Class averaged nearly two million more viewers per episode than Scrubs. What happened? CBS cancelled The Class and NBC renewed Scrubs.

    Using the partnership with DirecTV as an example, I can’t think of another network that has been as creative as NBC when it comes to saving a critically acclaimed show (Friday Night Lights).

    NBC tried to get creative again with the prime-time Leno experiment and the result was a ratings failure for both embattled hosts. Sure, it’s an absolute mess, but it’s certainly not the result of some systemic “disrespect” for talent at NBC.

  5. you make a very valid point, and it’s true, pretty much all networks operate the same way, concerned about their bottom line. NBC isn’t any different in that respect. i guess maybe i’m still bitter towards them for canceling ‘ed.’ sigh.

  6. You may be missing Conan, but I just found out Jonathan Ross is leaving the BBC to become a comic book writer. #talkshowhostfail!

    I suppose there will always be Graham Norton.

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