NBC’s Mistake with Conan O’Brien

The end of the “Cone Zone” on NBC may be near, but not without a fight.

I’m going to divert from my usual rantings about journalism, grad school, hard news, and foreign affairs to reflect on what I feel to be a huge mistake and injustice–at least, in the world of entertainment.

The Christian Science Monitor summed up the debate pretty well

The latest news says Conan O’Brien refuses to give his time slot to Jay Leno’s failing show. Jay’s terrible ratings are hurting the ratings of local news stations who’s 11:00 broadcasts are losing advertising dollars. Instead of booting Jay and inserting a better show (perhaps “Friends” reruns?), NBC wants to put Leno back in his old time spot, leaving Conan with a later time or on the streets of his new home in L.A. At the same time, horrible…profoundly horrible, hosts will keep heir time slots on NBC later that night.

Conan O’Brien is the reason I turn on the TV at 11:30 at night. The only other reason I’m up that late during the week is for work-related reasons, in which case the TV would simply prolong my last lap till bedtime. I love him in the new time slot because it’s not late enough where I SHOULD be asleep and I don’t have to sit through Jay Leno’s softer humor tailored to an older, probably easier-amused, audience. Granted Andy Richter is annoying, Conan’s personality is worth staying up for.

I became addicted to Conan when Comedy Central used to play re-runs of his shows in the summer. I was in high school, so that was the only time I could watch his little intro dance, his hilarious, self-depreciating comments that compensate for cheezy opening jokes, and his awkwardness, inside and out, that kept you glued to even the most boring of interviews. Instead of laughing nervously (cough Jimmy Fallon) when a joke failed, he turned it around with his genuinely funny personality and saved the joke with a bit of his own flavor.

I remember back in high school when NBC announced that Conan would take Jay’s place in 2009 thinking, “why so far away?” In the back of my head when watching the show in college, I counted down the years until he was finally given the spotlight he deserved at a more reasonable timeslot (after all, I am getting older…)

So why would NBC make such a move? They have this theory that Jay Leno is the God of late night TV and they’ll do anything to keep him, even if that means snubbing another legend. I understand that ad sales and ratings are vital to keeping TV stations alive, but why not replace Leno with another sitcom or reruns of favorite sitcoms from years past? It would be insulting for Conan to shove back to his old time slot (wouldn’t you be mad if you got a promotion and then six months later took your old job back?) If he goes to another network, like FOX where he worked for The Simpsons, I wouldn’t blame him.

Jimmy has done a horrible job replacing Conan because of his bland personality, inability to READ THE CUE CARDS (or make it seem like he ISNT TRYING TO READ) and general lack of humor that is evident in his opening jokes. He walks out with no confidence, immediately jumps into the lame jokes, doesn’t comment on the jokes, and leans heavily on his spectacular band, The Roots. The network must’ve noticed his inability to hold his own, so they’ve incorporated a ton of wacky games and actors to fill in the gaps of silence. His peak was on Saturday Night Live, where we only had to see him nervously laugh at the camera while delivering a joke one night a week.

To be fair, Jay’s show wasn’t all that bad. I loved “Jay Walking” where he revealed how stupid the man on the street can be. My favorite though had to be his segment where he points out unfortunate typos in local newspapers. Nonetheless, his time in the sun has set, and Conan’s younger following will take the place of our parents and enjoy “The Tonight Show” before going to bed.

And if “The Tonight Show” moves to 12:00, it wouldn’t really be “tonight” now would it?

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