The Late Night Wars!!!


I’m finding myself surprisingly obsessed with the whole Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien thing. It’s probably because I have a book deadline coming right up, and so anything that is NOT a book deadline becomes a source of great interest. But, also, I’ve read The Late Shift and was an avid watcher of late night TV back when the first round of chaos began, so it’s fascinating to watch the drama continue to play out.

The real question I take away from this whole thing is: They gave Jimmy Fallon a frickin’ late night TV show? Jimmy Fallon? The guy who couldn’t get through a single joke in Weekend Update without stumbling over a line? I dunno, maybe his show is a work of genius, but…Jimmy Fallon? Really?

I watched the very first episode of Late Night With Conan O’Brien, back when people were flipping out over “They’re giving Letterman’s show to a guy with no on-camera experience???” I watched him for about the first year, during which I found him kind of funny, sometimes. (Ahhhhh…I feel such nostalgia for the days when I could devote an hour a day, five days a week, to watching a TV show that didn’t even impress me all that much.)

Since then, the grand total of my Conan O’Brien viewing totalled to, I dunno, the equivalent of two full episodes. (I’ve never seen Triumph the Insult Comic Dog or the Masturbating Bear.) But last night I decided to watch his final appearance on The Tonight Show. And it was…kinda funny. Sometimes. The bit with Steve Carrell as an NBC employee conducting Conan’s exit interview could’ve been a gem, except that Conan was laughing hysterically through the whole thing, making it feel more like they were rehearsing the bit than actually performing it.

Overall, I can’t quite see the NBC executives as demonic villains. In 2010, in a world of thousands of TV channels and TiVo and the internet, it seems odd to say “The 10:00 PM Monday through Friday slot must be filled with an hour-long drama! A drama!” Would they really be destroying the legacy of The Tonight Show by moving it back half an hour? Playing Armchair Executive here, it seems like it would work out in his favor, since he’d gain from the people who watch the first half of Letterman and then switch over when the second-tier guests arrive.

[Note: The preceding opinions are not based on having any actual idea of what I’m talking about.]

But if you’re one of those people proposing an NBC boycott: stop it. You look stupid. And The Office is an infinitely better show than anything being discussed, and does not deserve your petty vengeance.

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