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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm With Coco

Oh wait, not that Coco...I meant this Coco:
Anyone who was paying attention to the news in the days before the earthquake in Haiti is no doubt aware of the controversy surrounding NBC's decision to cancel Jay Leno's disastrous 10pm show and plan to move him to an 11:30 time slot for a half hour comedy show thus pushing The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien to a 12pm start time and Conan's subsequent refusal to play ball with NBC executives' programming wishes. Those of us who care to know the whole story already know it at this point (Conan wanting to honor the tradition of The Tonight Show's 11:3o start time, not push Jimmy Falon's show to a 1am start, wanting more than 7 months to prove he could raise the ratings, etc., etc.) so I am going to skip a summary and look at what is happening now.

Conan has accepted a buyout and is free to take his show to another network, Leno will move back to The Tonight Show and Jimmy Fallon stays right where he is. Leno has been much maligned by the media, fellow celebrities (David Letterman, Howard Stern, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Rosie O'Donnell, Patton Oswalt, etc.), Conan's supporters in the general public and of course by Conan himself. Leno claims to be innocent in all of this which might very well be true, but his well documented dirty tactics to get The Tonight Show years ago after Carson retired certainly calls his credibility into question.

Regardless of what really happened behind the scenes, one thing is for certain....the folks running NBC's programming are FUCKING IDIOTS. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was consistently beating Letterman in the ratings, but they decided to have Leno step down and replace him with Conan in order to keep Conan, who was getting offers from other networks, on NBC. Why ask your golden goose to stop laying eggs when it is showing no signs of slowing down? Why not just offer Conan more money and/or creative freedom if keeping him on the network is that important? Or simply let him go to another network and trust that he isn't going to steal audience from Leno? I get that he was probably the "heir apparent" for The Tonight Show in many NBC executives' eyes, but just because someone is next in line to be king doesn't always mean they are ready for the responsibilities of the crown. They pulled the trigger too soon....Leno wasn't ready to retire, Conan wasn't ready for the job and there was no contingency plan in place in case it all went to shit. The fact that they didn't have the foresight to see that Conan might not get the job done ratings wise and had no clauses in his contract stating they could bump him based on certain metrics is another example of how these morons can't see the bigger picture. Conan's audience is made up of a younger generation....people like me who think he is amazing, but rarely tune in to watch. At 11:30 I'm either out on the town still or have settled on another show (probably on my DVR) to watch. If something really funny happens on his show, then it'll pop up on YouTube the next day and I can watch the 5 minutes that I find amusing and skip over commercials, guests and musical acts I don't care about. And this applied when he was on at 12:30 too (see the online viral success of clips from Jimmy Fallon's show for proof that this trend continues). Leno's old audience doesn't get Conan...he is too edgy for them. Leno played it safe and appealed to a certain demographic because of that. Now they've got a situation on their hands where there could be some backlash against Leno reflected in the ratings and he could quite possibly have trouble regaining ground against Letterman.

What's amazing in all of this is that no heads are rolling at the top of NBC. Whoever was responsible for the Leno 1opm experiment and the inexcusably poor handling of the Conan situation should be FIRED. I haven't worked in broadcast television and in no way shape or form claim to understand the intricacies of it, but I do know that no matter what business you are in, when you are incompetent and can't do your job properly (especially when it is in the public eye), then you get dismissed (or should at least....we've all had the pleasure of working with some real ninnies who manage to fail upwards constantly). NBC has been a mess for years now and needs a serious overhaul in their programming and new leadership is required to make that happen. If I was given the job tomorrow, then I would cancel Heroes, tell Dick Wolf to only bother writing new episodes of Law & Order: SVU, put Chuck on notice, place Friday Night Lights back into the fold on Tuesday or Wednesday night, make it a priority to reestablish NBC's comedy programming as the only place to be on a Thursday night and order up some exciting, vibrant and risk-taking programming to revitalize the network. And have you seen this new show that Tom Brokaw has that NBC is letting languish on USA Network (no offense to USA Network as they have a lot of good original programming, but this show does not fit in with it)? Why not doing something more with that? It would would work well paired with Dateline on Friday nights.

Would any of this work? I have no clue, but at least I'd be trying and that seems to be more than what anyone else there is doing right now, so if any members of NBC's board of directors happen to read this, then give me a call as I am available to start work tomorrow and will take half the salary Jeff Zucker does.

As for what happens after Conan goes off the air (supposedly after this week), the big speculation is that Conan will go to Fox. I don't know why, but for some reason if Conan took over that 11pm Seinfeld/The Simpsons/The Office re-run hour, then I would definitely tune in religiously. Why? I don't know. That 11:30 start time simply throws me off, but an 11pm start time comes right after whatever I'm watching at 10pm finishes (practically everything I watch at 10pm on a weekday is an hour long) and allows no time for me to get distracted by flipping through the channels finding something to watch to kill 30 minutes. But Fox is what everyone is speculating mainly because they have no late night programming. Conan would be a good fit for them....edgy, geared towards a younger audience and he would of course come in surrounded by "controversy". An HBO or Showtime throwing an offer on the table isn't out of the realm of possibility and who is to say that ABC may not decide to can Nightline, move Jimmy Kimmel to 12:30 and put Conan up against both Leno and Letterman. Let's not rule out Comedy Central either as some sort of Conan/Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert programming line-up would be nothing to scoff at. Only time will tell what happens I suppose.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

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