By now, unless you're dead, you're aware that Conan O'Brien has been hosting The Tonight Show for the past few weeks or months. By most accounts, he won't be hosting it much longer because not enough people watch it and Jay Leno would like his old job back. While lawyers sort through the details, everyone on late-night TV is busy trying to figure out how they can profit from this unseemly mess.
Who knows? I might even start tuning in to these people on a regular basis. But that seems to be exactly what "they" want. (I'm not sure who "they" are, but whenever you put annoying air-quotes on anything, it's a sign that it's probably not a good thing.)
Here are 10 things we've either learned or had reinforced by this made-for-TV debacle (or learned years ago in the Robert Altman film The Player):
10) It's About The Money: According to the New York Times, "Mr. Leno dominated the late-night ratings since the mid-1990s, rarely losing even a night to Mr. Letterman." While Conan, it appears, cannot repeat this success. Of course, Leno's success is inexplicable. But it speaks to the heart of the free-market system. People want white bread with mayonnaise. People will get white bread with mayonnaise. The people have spoken and the people are wrong, as they often are. But a ratings point is a ratings point and no network is run as a charity organization.
8) No One Likes Hollywood Studio Execs: Hollywood studio executives are members of the exclusive Universally Loathsome Individuals Club. Everyone hates them because everyone knows they could do just as lousy a job and cash those big paychecks that are usually reserved for bankers who screw us out of our money. Even on the rare occasion that a Hollywood studio executive is right, no one cares. Mostly because that same studio executive quickly reverts to the "wrong" position anyhow.
6) When Studio Executives Are Wrong, They Rarely Lose Their Gig: This gets filed under why people hate studio execs so much. When you or I screw up, we get called into the boss' office and told we're either being penalized or being let go. When studio execs screw up, they either fire someone else or move to another network for even more money. Whether this actually happens as often as it seems doesn't matter as much as the "idea" that it happens. Execs should be familiar with this concept since they work in the perception industry.
If Conan O'Brien loses his gig, don't feel as bad for Conan as for the people who work on his show and never make anywhere near the amount of money that Conan does. However, I have read that Conan is generous with his staff and is a stand-up guy, which is why...
4) David Letterman Is Best When Really Annoyed And Not Just Pretending To Be: This whole war-of-the-words is really lighting a fire under the late night talk show hosts' butts. Letterman's made a career out of swatting the flies away as he makes it back to his office. He may be the only guy on TV who looks completely comfortable on it but also looks as if he's thinking about how nice it would be back in his private bunker. His jokes about Jay "Big Jaw" Leno have put an edge in his voice that we haven't heard since the annoyed disdain and frustration he's shown the topic of Sarah Palin. Even Conan's been showing some teeth, but...
2) Most People Still Don't Know The Answer To The Question: Who Is Carson Daly?: The whole idea of Conan moving to 12:05am engineers this whole chain-reaction line of thinking that ends with Carson Daly's show starting sometime around the crack of dawn. However, whenever most people get to Daly's name, they say it like they're not sure they're pronouncing it right, since they've never heard of it before. Has anyone ever been this invisible in broad nightlight?
- Jay Leno
- Conan O'Brien